by Mohamed MostafaFeb 3, 2017, 9:36 am
Turkish F-16 fighte jet
(Reuters) The Turkish military said on Friday its warplanes and jets from the U.S.-led coalition have carried out air strikes near Syria’s al-Bab, a town held by Islamic State and besieged by Turkey-backed Syrian rebels for almost two months.
A total of 47 Islamic State militants were “neutralized” in clashes and air strikes in the past 24 hours, the military said in a statement, adding that buildings, defense posts, shelters and an ammunition depot were destroyed in raids.
The Syrian army signaled on Thursday it would press on with operations against Islamic State northeast of Aleppo, in a veiled warning to Turkey which backs a separate military campaign in northern Syria.
Syrian government forces have rapidly driven Islamic State back in the last two weeks, advancing to within 6 km (4 miles) of the city of al-Bab that the jihadists are fighting to hold.
The army’s gains risk sparking a confrontation with Turkey, which has sent tanks and warplanes across the border to support Syrian insurgents who are trying to seize al-Bab in a separate offensive.
Turkey’s offensive, launched last year, aims to drive both Islamic State and Syrian Kurdish fighters away from its borders, as Turkey sees both groups as a security threat.
Syria’s military general command said government forces and their allies had recaptured more than 30 towns and villages from Islamic State, and a 16 km (10 mile) stretch of the highway that links Aleppo to al-Bab to the northeast.