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.

 

Lebanese army launches anti-IS offensive on Syria border

Turkey slams 'arrogant' German reaction to Erdogan poll call

Police confirm Finland 'terror attack'

UN demands access to Yemen ports

Civilians stay on frontlines despite dangers in Raqa

Russia doubts IS claim of stabbing attack in northern city

Spain hunts suspects as IS claims attack

Aid project helps Syria refugees feel at home in Jordan

Low-cost attacks a new reality for Europeans

Forces of Libya's Haftar say commander wanted by ICC in detention

Yemen rebels urged to free political commentator

Iranian footballer breaks silence over ban for playing Israelis

Erdogan meddles in German politics

IS fighters almost encircled in Syrian desert

For Israel, White House ties trump neo-Nazis and antisemitism

Israel freezes implementation of settlement law

Saudi Arabia installing cranes at Yemen ports

13 dead, 100 injured in two Spanish seaside city attacks

Iran reform leader ends hunger strike

Van ploughs through pedestrians in Barcelona terror attack

13 killed in Barcelona van attack

Iraq acknowledges abuses in Mosul campaign

Netanyahu under fire for response to US neo-Nazism

Israel to free high-profile suspects in money laundering probe

Spanish police shut down jet-ski migrant smugglers

Syrian actress, activist Fadwa Suleiman dies in Paris

Israeli court extends detention for Islamic cleric over ‘incitement’

UAE to provide $15 million a month to Gaza

Sudan's Bashir 'satisfied' with Nile dam project

US-backed rebels say American presence in Syria to last ‘decades’

Tunisian clerics oppose equal inheritance rights for women

Israel strikes almost 100 Hezbollah arms convoys in 5 years

UN hopes for eighth round of Syria talks before year’s end

LONG READ: How Syria continues to evade chemical weapons justice

Civilians killed in US-led raids on Raqa

Qatari pilgrims begin flooding into Saudi by land

Turkey arrests 9 more journalists for alleged ‘Gulen links’

Iran’s Karroubi on hunger strike over 6-year house arrest

Saudi Arabia to restart work on Grand Mosque expansion

Algeria reshuffles cabinet, nominates three new ministers

Syria rebels lose heavyweight faction

ICC orders Mali ex-jihadist pay 2.7 m euros for Timbuktu destruction

Libya seeks to ‘organise’ NGOs carrying migrant rescue Ops

More than one million South Sudan refugees in Uganda

Beirut, Damascus pledge to boost economic ties