Turkey-backed Syrian rebels launch Dabiq offensive
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels on Saturday commenced an operation against the Islamic State (IS)-held village of Dabiq in northwestern Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed the reports in a public speech in his hometown of Rize in northern Turkey, saying “we are advancing toward Dabiq and we will set up a safe haven there.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a monitoring group watching the civil war in Syria, had earlier reported the launch of the Turkish-FSA offensive against IS.
Citing local sources, SOHR estimated there were about 1,200 IS fighters on the defensive in Dabiq and the nearby village of Soran encroached from three sides toward the north.
Turkish state-run Anadolu agency said the US-led anti-IS coalition warplanes supported the offensive with air strikes, and Turkish ground forces hit IS targets with mortars from inside Syria and across the border.
The village of Dabiq, only 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of the Turkish border, remains in a roughly 90 kilometers wide area between the towns of Azaz and Jarablus that the autonomous Kurdish region of Rojava claim as part of Syrian Kurdistan.
Turkey began an operation with the FSA dubbed the Euphrates Shield in late August with aims of driving IS from its southern border.
Additionally, the operation was meant to prevent the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units from capturing the area and thus uniting the two cantons of Kobani and Afrin.
Turkish authorities including Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim have vowed to turn the area into a “safe haven” where Syrian refugees in their country could be relocated.
Dabiq is important to IS in terms of propaganda as the jihadist group has named its English-language magazine after the village.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany