Hundreds of Syrian civilians killed in Turkish anti-IS operation
At least 13 IS militants were killed in the last 24 hours, as part of the Turkish-led Operations Euphrates Shield, which involves allied Syrian rebel groups supported by Turkey, a Turkish General Staff statement said on Friday.
"The operation to gain complete control of the al-Bab region has neared its end and the resistance of the Daesh terror group has largely been broken," the Turkish military statement said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
Some 70 IS targets, including the militants' shelters and arms depot were hit by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the statement added.
Seven buildings allegedly used by the militant group as hideouts were also targeted by Turkish fighter jets, Anadolu reported.
The Turkish campaign in al-Bab – in which Ankara seeks to clean its border zone from the presence of IS militants as well as halt the advance of Kurdish militias and Syrian regime forces nearby – has killed over 400 civilians, mostly children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
On Thursday, 34 civilians – including 17 children - were killed by Turkish bombardment of of al-Bab, despite Turkish army claiming only "terrorists" died in the operation.
The Observatory said the dead in airstrikes and shelling on the town had killed 24 civilians, including 11 children, by Thursday morning.
Renewed bombardment later in the day killed another ten civilians, among them six children, according to Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
|Al-Bab has been under IS control since 2014, when the group seized large swathes of territory in Syria and neighbouring Iraq, proclaiming its self-described caliphate.|
Al-Bab has been under IS control since 2014, when the group seized large swathes of territory in Syria and neighbouring Iraq, proclaiming its self-described caliphate.
Turkey began military operations in Syria in August, targeting both IS militants as well as Kurdish fighters.
Initially its forces and allied Syrian rebel factions advanced quickly, but they stalled around al-Bab in December.
The town is also a key target for Syrian regime forces, who had been racing to reach al-Bab from the south.
Since rival regime forces, including the elite Tiger Forces, began an assault on villages to the south of al-Bab over the past weeks - which saw the town completely encircled - it has led to Ankara to intensify its Euphrates Shield operation.
The wider Syrian conflict that drew in Turkey had begun when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings.
According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria.
The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.