Western al-Bab offensive (September 2016)

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The western al-Bab offensive (September 2016) was a military operation launched by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the countryside of northwestern Aleppo Governorate, south of the towns of Mare' and Tel Rifaat.

Preparations

On 14 August 2016, just after the capture of Manbij during the Manbij offensive, several SDF factions led by 16 commanders formed the al-Bab Military Council, modelled after the Manbij Military Council, in order to capture territory in the al-Bab countryside and eventually the city itself from ISIL. The military council called for US support in the planned offensive.[18] The main forces of the council would attack al-Bab from its eastern side, though elements of the council do also have a presence on the western front.[19]

The offensive

Initial SDF advances

Map of the offensive

On 30 August 2016, following heavy mortar bombardment and US Air Force airstrikes on ISIL positions in the villages that killed 13 fighters and destroyed five of their vehicles, forcing them to withdraw, the SDF in Afrin, led by the Army of Revolutionaries, entered and captured the villages of Maarat Umm Hawsh, Umm Qura, Herbel, and Tell Qarah.[1]

The next day, ISIL launched a counter-attack on Herbel and briefly recaptured it. However, the Revolutionary Army reentered the village and retook it, capturing a stash of weapons and ammunition, and the Syrian independence flag was raised in the town.[16] A US airstrike destroyed a mortar in the area.[20] In the evening of that day ISIL sent two car bombs at the village but they were reportedly destroyed before they could reach their targets.

SDF engineering units dismantled and detonated 70 land mines by 2 September.[21] US airstrikes destroyed seven ISIL positions and a weapons cache on the same day.[22] SDF positions in Umm Qura were shelled by ISIL during the night which prompted them to shell back.[23] Minesweeping operations continued as dozens of landmines remain in the village.[24]

ISIL launched a second counter-attack on Umm Hosh and Umm Qara on 4 September, after bombarding the villages with heavy weapons.[25] ISIL claimed it had recaptured Umm Qara and killed around 30 SDF fighters and destroyed 2 of their armoured vehicles with anti-tank missiles.[15] On 6 September, the SDF captured the village of Wahshiyah.[2]

On 8 September, ISIL evacuated its headquarters in al-Bab and moved it to Khafsa located east of the city with dozens of vehicles carrying militants and weapons, this came a day after Turkish-led rebel forces also expressed their goal of capturing al-Bab.[26]

ISIL counter-offensives and further SDF gains

On 19 September, after shelling the village with rocket artillery and exploding 2 car bombs, ISIL launched another counter-offensive on Umm Hosh from three axis. Intense clashes between the SDF and ISIL continued the next day,[27] and 16 SDF fighters were killed. The front in Umm Hosh eventually calmed, however fighting continued in the outskirts of the village.[13]

On 24 and 25 September, the SDF captured al-Hasia and Hassadjek, with clashes ongoing in Bayt Isa and Tall Saussine south of Tell Qara. After this the SDF reached within 20 km west of al-Bab city.[28]

On 28 September, ISIL launched a fourth counteroffensive, launching 2 car bombs at SDF checkpoints around Umm Qura and Umm Hosh and launching mortar shells on the SDF headquarters in the area. SDF forces responded by firing heavy artillery at ISIL positions in the villages of Wahshiya, Hesasik and Tel Maled. According to the SDF at least 16 ISIL militants were killed and six SDF fighters were killed in the attacks. Clashes also erupted between SDF fighters and ISIL militants near the town of Herbel where two ISIS vehicles were destroyed and eight militants were killed according to the SDF. Three SDF fighters were killed in these clashes.[14]

US warplanes assisted the SDF by conducting at least three airstrikes on ISIL fighting positions which forced the ISIL militants to withdraw. The SDF spokesman Ahmed Sultan stated that the clashes stopped around midnight, and due to US airstrikes, the ISIL forces withdrew from their positions.[14]

Aftermath - SDF confrontation with Turkey-backed FSA

Mid-October, in response to advances by the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army forces against ISIL in the area of Dabiq, the SDF started their own advances.[29][30]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e "Syrian Democratic Forces launch new operation against ISIS in Aleppo, expel militants from four villages". ARA News. 30 August 2016. 
  2. ^ a b Paul Antonopoulos (6 September 2016). "Kurdish YPG capture village from ISIS in northern Aleppo countryside". al-Masdar News. 
  3. ^ "Rebel Army leader: we control the village of Um Hosh in northern Aleppo". Qassioun News Agency. 31 August 2016. 
  4. ^ "Kurds Front to Shahba residents: be patient, we are coming". Hawar News Agency. 3 September 2016. 
  5. ^ "Kurds Front: we will resist to the last gasp". Hawar News Agency. 24 October 2016. 
  6. ^ "Syrian Rebellion Obs on Twitter: "#SRO - IMPORTANT - Here are the two "border" forces (one old : Quwat al-Ashair) to secure the future buffer zone between #Rojava and regime."". Twitter. 2016-11-26. Retrieved 2017-03-02. 
  7. ^ "Syrian Rebellion Obs on Twitter: "ADD.: Quwat al-Ashair is part of #SDF but is a mainly arab-led force. Liwa Shuhada Kafr Saghir isn't part of #NDF contrary to some hoax."". Twitter. 2016-11-26. Retrieved 2017-03-02. 
  8. ^ "KurdisCat: 3 membres de Jabhat al Akrad i Quwat al-Ashair moren en combat contra l'IS al front d'al Bab". Kurdiscat.blogspot.com. 2016-11-03. Retrieved 2017-03-02. 
  9. ^ "Syrian Rebellion Obs on Twitter: "@sovietlijie Yes a tribal force, composed with arab clans from KafrNaya, Susian areas as others families."". Twitter. 2016-09-25. Retrieved 2017-03-02. 
  10. ^ "Edit Town Herbel In The Aleppo Countryside North By The Revolutionary Factions". Radio Welat. 31 August 2016. 
  11. ^ "Turkey bogged down in Syria as it realigns with Russia". Retrieved 13 January 2017. 
  12. ^ "10 fighters from The Syria Democratic Forces Killed, and a funeral of 15 other fighters in Afrin area". SOHR. 3 September 2016. 
  13. ^ a b "A statement to the public opinion". Jaysh al-Thuwar. 20 September 2016. 
  14. ^ a b c "9 SDF fighters killed". ARA News. 29 September 2016. 
  15. ^ a b c "Kurdish offensive against ISIS in northern Aleppo goes horribly wrong". AM. 4 September 2016. 
  16. ^ a b "A statement to the public". Aleppo Achammala. 31 August 2016. 
  17. ^ "24 ISIS militants killed". ARA News. 29 September 2016. 
  18. ^ "Syrian Democratic Forces aim to capture al-Bab, call for coalition support". ARA News. 15 August 2016. 
  19. ^ "Ongoing battles in Shahba, a mercenary commander killed | ANHA". Hawar News Agency. Retrieved 2017-03-02. 
  20. ^ "Release # 20160901-01" (PDF). Inherent Resolve. 31 August 2016. 
  21. ^ "A statement to the public". Jesh al-Thowar. 1 September 2016. 
  22. ^ "Release # 20160902-01" (PDF). Inherent Resolve. 2 September 2016. 
  23. ^ "Clashes break out in the Azaz region". Hawar News Agency. 2 September 2016. 
  24. ^ "Minefield was found in Um Hosh". Hawar News Agency. 3 September 2016. 
  25. ^ "IS attacks the liberated villages, revolutionary factions repel". Hawar News Agency. 4 September 2016. 
  26. ^ "Islamic State evacuating headquarters in Syria's al-Bab". ARA News. 8 September 2016. 
  27. ^ "Daesh attacks Umm Hosh". RuMaf. 19 September 2016. 
  28. ^ "Race to Al-Bab continues as Kurdish forces advance towards ISIL's Aleppo stronghold". Al-Masdar News. 26 September 2016. 
  29. ^ "Battle for A'zaz-Al-Bab Area: The Territorial Control as of October 19, 2016 (6 a.m.)". Edmaps. 19 October 2016. 
  30. ^ @Syria_Rebel_Obs (18 October 2016). "As #Turkey was already celebrating cutting #SDF possibilities to move toward #Bab, SDF launching its own offensive tonight" (Tweet) – via Twitter. 
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