First Published: 2017-02-17

Turkish shelling kills 9 in IS-held Syria town
Shelling kills nine civilians in Al-Bab, IS’ last stronghold in Aleppo province, but Ankara insists 13 ‘terrorists’ killed.
Middle East Online

Turkey says engaged in Al-Bab 'clean up' operation

ANKARA - Nine civilians were killed in overnight Turkish bombardment of a jihadist-held town in northern Syria, a monitor said on Friday, but Ankara said the shelling killed 13 "terrorists".

Three women were among those killed in the artillery fire on Al-Bab, which Turkish-backed Syrian rebels have been fighting to take from the Islamic State group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"In the past 48 hours, Turkish air strikes and shelling have killed 45 civilians, including 18 children and 14 women," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency said the army had hit dozens of IS positions, seven of them from the air.

"In total, 13 IS terrorists were killed," Anadolu reported.

Ankara began military operations in Syria in August last year, targeting Kurdish fighters as well as IS, but says it is doing its utmost to avoid civilian casualties.

Al-Bab is IS's last stronghold in Aleppo province and has come under fierce attack in recent months by Turkish forces and allied Syrian rebels.

They entered the town last the weekend and are now engaged in "clean-up" operations, Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik said on Thursday.

The Observatory, however, said Turkish forces had made little progress since entering the town from the west, and rebels said IS was putting up fierce resistance.

Field commander Abu Jaafar said his forces had been able to overrun part of the town early Thursday, but were then ambushed by IS.

At least one jihadist suicide attacker wounded several rebels and seriously damaged their equipment, Abu Jaafar said.

"Daesh seeks to install itself in civilian and public buildings and use civilians as human shields," rebel spokesman Mahmud Hadi said on Friday.

"They use suicide attacks and they move about through basements and tunnels... they infiltrate in between civilians fleeing the military operations to try and penetrate behind the lines of the rebel factions."

Dozens of civilians have been fleeing Al-Bab on a daily basis, according to the Observatory, leaving newly liberated areas as well as escaping territory still under IS control.

From outside the town on Friday, a line of fleeing residents could be seen crossing a field to escape the fighting, as gunshots sounded in the distance.

On a road leading to the rebel-held town of Azaz, several fleeing residents had piled their belongings into carts on the back of motorbikes and were driving away.

One man driving a truck told a rebel at a checkpoint that IS fighters had fired at the fleeing civilians.

In Azaz, local authorities welcomed arrivals, some of whom were continuing on to rebel-held territory further west, in Idlib province.

 

Rouhani seizes opportunity to get closer to Qatar

New crown prince widely welcomed in Saudi Arabia

Banned Bahraini newspaper fires staff

Iraq forces battle deep into devastated Old Mosul

Prime time for Ramadan on Gulf fashion calendar

Mali activists call for referendum to be abandoned

Iraqi forces control two thirds of Mosul Old City

Assad leads Eid prayers in Syria’s Hama

Lone-wolf attacks raise concern about new trend in terror

Erdogan slams Saudi demands of Qatar as illegal

Sudan making 'positive' steps on meeting US sanctions terms

Mecca suicide bombing injures six

Gulf crisis heats up as Qatar receives list of demands

Suicide attacks kill at least three people in Mosul

Civilians killed in Iraq suicide bomb attacks

UN warns Yemen cholera outbreak could infect 300,000 by September

Putin launches deep-water phase of TurkStream pipeline

Berlin warns Ankara against meddling in religious affairs

Asian states downplay 'Russia proposal' to send troops to Syria

Iran’s Salehi urges West to save historic nuclear deal

Iran, allies mark Jerusalem Day with rallies

US-led Syria strikes kill 472 civilians in one month

Morocco dismantles 'IS-linked cell plotting tourist attacks'

France sets out tough new anti-terror law

Russia warships, submarine strike IS targets in Syria

Trump-Saudi ties help pave way for new Saudi crown prince

Makeshift clinic saves lives near Syria’s Raqa

Egyptian fuel helps restart Gaza power station

Rights groups say Morocco protest leader 'severely beaten' during arrest

5 killed in Mogadishu car bomb attack

UN experts urge Egypt to halt executions after 'flawed trials'

Qatar emir congratulates newly-appointed Saudi crown prince

Kushner hails 'productive' Palestine-Israel talks

Macron says removing Assad no longer priority in Syria

Turkey sends first aid ship to isolated ally Qatar

Iraq PM says IS admitting defeat in Mosul

Egypt delivers fuel to ease Gaza electricity shortage

Saudi Arabia named after ruling dynasty

Turkey detains catering boss after army food poisoning

Israel says will unleash 'unimaginable power' in future Lebanon war

Brussels nail bomber identified as Moroccan

Saudi stock market bullish on new heir

Lebanon's Salame to be new UN Libya envoy

New Saudi heir is king's agent of change

Turkish President accused of influencing courts