Archive for October 17th, 2016

Turkish-backed Syrian rebels recapture town of Dabiq from ISIS

Kareem Shaheen in Beirut

Sunday 16 October 2016

Syrian rebel fighters backed by Turkey have seized the town of Dabiq from Islamic State, a symbolically crucial victory in the fight against the terror group.

Dabiq, which lies a few miles from the Turkish border, is the site of a prophesied battle between Muslims and non-believers that is supposed to take place at the end of the world, and has featured often in Isis propaganda. The group’s official magazine is named after the town.

On Sunday morning the rebel alliance backed by Turkey announced that it had taken Dabiq after Isis withdrew from the town.

“The Daesh myth of their great battle in Dabiq is finished,” Ahmed Osman, the head of the Sultan Murad group, which took part in the operation, told Reuters.

The Levant Front, another group in the Turkish-backed offensive, published images from inside Dabiq shortly after the announcement, showing deserted streets and terrain.

The operation to reclaim Dabiq was part of Euphrates Shield, a campaign announced by Turkey in August in which Syrian rebel fighters have consolidated control over a stretch of territory from the Euphrates river to the town of Azaz, north of Aleppo, aided by Turkish fighter jets, tanks and special forces troops.

Turkey launched the operation shortly after an Islamic State suicide attack on the city of Gaziantep, and it quickly led to the fall of the last Isis stronghold on the border, the town of Jarablus.

Euphrates Shield is also aimed at containing the Syrian Kurds, who have expanded their territory in northern Syria in recent months.

Ankara considers the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the main Syrian Kurdish militia, to be another wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), a separatist group fighting an insurgency inside Turkey.

Dabiq was prophesied in a hadith, or saying attributed to the prophet Muhammad, to be the scene of a final battle that would precede Doomsday, and its control by Isis was a boost to their nihilistic propaganda message.

The town was the scene of the executions of American and British aid workers and journalists kidnapped by Isis, the filming of which came to symbolize the group’s brutality.

The Dabiq defeat is the latest in a string of losses for the terror group, which once declared its self-proclaimed caliphate was “remaining and expanding”.

The caliphate has instead receded: in Syria this year it has lost the historic city of Palmyra and the town of Manbij, north of Aleppo, as well as much of its holdings in northern Syria. In Iraq, it lost its stronghold of Falluja in the summer along with much of Anbar province. An operation to retake Mosul, the most populous city under its control, is expected to begin in the coming days.

Islamic State’s top lieutenants have been killed in targeted assassinations and airstrikes, including the recent high-profile killing of its spokesman, Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, in an airstrike on al-Bab, a town north of Aleppo that is expected to be an upcoming target for the Turkish-backed coalition.

Source: The Guardian.


Turkish-backed Syria fighters begin Dabiq operation

15 October 2016 Saturday

Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters were on Saturday advancing on the town of Dabiq to retake it from ISIL fighters, the Turkish president said.

After Jarabulus and Al-Rai in Syria, “we are now advancing. Where? To Dabiq,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in televised comments in the Black Sea province of Rize.

Turkey launched an unprecedented operation inside Syria on August 24 to cleanse its frontier from IS jihadists and Syrian Kurdish militia forces.

In the early weeks of the operation, Jarabulus and Al-Rai were the first two major settlements to be captured from IS by Turkey-backed rebels.

Dabiq holds symbolic importance for ISIL because of a Sunni prophecy that states it will be the site of an end-of-times battle between Christian forces and Muslims.

The Syrian rebels, supported by the Turkish planes and tanks, are 2.5 kilometers from Dabiq (1.5 miles), according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“Two hours ago, the rebels started their attack to control Dabiq. The rebels came from Al-Rai,” it said.

Source: World Bulletin.


Syrian Turkmens call on Turkey to expand Operation Euphrates Shield

14.10.2016 Friday

The Syrian Turkmen Assembly on Thursday gathered in the southern Gaziantep province to discuss the reflections of Operation Euphrates Shield on Syrian Turkmens.

Speaking at the event, Emin Bozoglan, head of the Syrian Turkmen Assembly, said that protecting Turkmens means the security of Turkey. Commenting on the perks of Operation Euphrates Shield for Syrian Turkmens, Bozoglan said: “Operation Euphrates Shield is legitimate and appropriate. Thanks to this operation, the Azaz-Jarablus line has been secured. Turkmens have been saved from the hands of Daish.”Turkmen commanders fighting among the Free Syrian Army (FSA) ranks also attended the event. Yusuf Salih, a Turkmen commander in the FSA, said that Aug. 24 was a historic day for Syria and Syrian Turkmens. “Our target is to secure Turkey’s borders and sweep out Daish terrorists,” Salih said, adding that the operation will continue until the end.

Turkmen locals also had their say during the event. Cumali Agar, a 43-year-old Turkmen, said that he has been praying every day since the beginning of Operation Euphrates Shield for it to be successful. “It saved us and our relatives from Daish. It has to expand and liberate the whole of Syria,” he asserted.

Source: Daily Sabah.


After relentless bombardment, two northwest Damascus towns give up and the evacuations begin

OCT. 13, 2016

AMMAN: More than 600 rebels and their families left two northwest Outer Damascus towns on Thursday in buses headed for rebel-held Idlib province, the first group of residents to be evacuated under a deal with the regime after two weeks of bombardment, ground fighting and negotiations.

Al-Hameh and Qudsaya, neighboring, rebel-held towns roughly 10km northwest of the Syrian capital along the Damascus-Beirut highway, had been negotiating a truce with the regime amidst heavy aerial and ground bombardment since the latter attempted to storm the towns in late September.

As negotiations continued, at least 10 people were killed with dozens injured. The bombings struck the two towns’ only hospitals, part of what one rebel negotiator characterized to Syria Direct last week as a “kneel or die” strategy.

In response to the bombardment and deteriorating conditions in the Free Syrian Army-held towns—encircled by loyalist forces since this past July—residents reportedly “pressured” negotiators to accept a deal offered by the regime late last month to reestablish control of the towns, the same anonymous negotiator told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

The deal stipulated that all rebels in al-Hameh and Qudsaya hand over their medium and heavy weapons and either surrender and sign an amnesty with the Syrian government or leave the towns for Idlib province. In return, all roads into and out of the towns would be opened, with state municipal services restored.

Despite some initial reluctance, rebels took the deal this past Saturday after loyalist forces advanced and captured a strategic part of al-Hameh.

Lists of those wanting to leave were drawn up, and a ceasefire began on Tuesday.

“The opposition became more responsive when faced with the fait accompli imposed by the latest developments,” the rebel negotiator told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

A total of 2,500 residents of the two towns are due to leave the towns for Idlib province over the next few days, the negotiator said, including 525 rebels from Qudsaya and 114 from al-Hameh.

Not all those who want to leave the towns will be allowed to do so, “because they are not gunmen,” the negotiator told Syria Direct on Wednesday. “For example, those wanted for compulsory military service or the reserves in the regime forces, who have not joined any factions” will have to stay, he added.

Those wanted for military service have six months to present themselves to regime conscription offices if they are not eligible for a deferral.

‘A bitter pill’

As of publication, 14 buses holding hundreds of rebels and their families were winding their way northwards through Syria, heading towards rebel-held Idlib province.

“Without the oversight of the United Nations, there are no real guarantees that we will arrive safely in Idlib,” Omar, a rebel from al-Hameh told Syria Direct on Thursday from one of the buses.

While the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) oversaw Thursday’s evacuation, there was no United Nations presence in the towns.

“We only get involved in evacuation operations when requested by all parties and in accordance with international humanitarian law and protection standards,” a spokesman for the Office of the UN Secretary General told Syria Direct last month.

Omar, the rebel on the bus, says he is leaving al-Hameh to protect his family.

“I left with my family to take care of them,” said Omar, “and to safeguard the lives of my people remaining in al-Hameh,” referring to the bombardment of the town in recent days.

“It’s a bitter pill to swallow.”

For some residents, the evacuation of rebel fighters from al-Hameh and Qudsaya appears to be part of a broader attempt by the Syrian regime to remove pockets of resistance near the capital.

“The regime wants to secure the edges of Damascus,” Samer a-Shami, a citizen journalist and member of the al-Hameh LCC told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

“After Darayya, it’s al-Hameh and Qudsaya’s turn,” said a-Shami. “Let observers wonder whose turn is next.”

Source: Syria Direct.