Ankara, Beirut- Turkey-backed Syrian opposition seized control of nine areas, including the village of Dabiq, from ISIS on Sunday, largely achieving border security between the Turkish towns of Kilis and Karkamis, the country’s military said on Monday.
Taking control of Dabiq had eliminated the threat to Turkey from rockets fired by the jihadists, the Turkish Armed Forces said in a written statement.
It said that in the last 24 hours of clashes, nine Turkey-backed fighters were killed and 24 were wounded while “many” ISIS fighters were killed. The operation, dubbed “Euphrates Shield” was launched in late August.
The Syrian rebels, backed by Turkish tanks and warplanes, said they had taken Dabiq after clashes on Sunday morning, forcing ISIS from a stronghold where it had promised to fight a final, apocalyptic battle with the West.
President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Sunday Dabiq’s liberation was a “strategic and symbolic victory” against ISIS.
He told Reuters it was important strategically that the Turkey-backed forces continue their advance toward the ISIS stronghold of al-Bab.
Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said on Sunday that the Special Turkish Forces fighting within Operation Euphrates Shield to support the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in North Syria will continue their progress in the area until Turkey is completely secure from the threats of the terrorist ISIS organization.
The defense minister said that Operation Euphrates Shield was capable to greatly limit the direct threats created by the terrorist ISIS organization in Turkish territories.
Isik said the operation has being carried out “successfully,” adding that Ankara would progress in this operation to completely liberate Raqqa and Mosul from ISIS’ threat.
On Sunday, the FSA were capable to control the village of Dabiq, only 24 hours after the military operation was kicked off.
Turkish military sources said it looks like ISIS forces had left the majority of the area, but warned that the FSA were still working to remove cluster bombs planted in the village.
Turkish sources said that the most difficult part in Euphrates Shield was now achieved.
The liberation of Dabiq and Soran from ISIS is important because the two villages are the easiest and nearest conduit to the city of al-Bab, which is the main stronghold of ISIS in the countryside of Aleppo district.
Ankara believes that by controlling al-Bab, Turkey would prevent the Kurdistan Workers Party and ISIS members from moving between Mosul and Raqqa.
A researcher in Syrian affairs Ahmad Aba Zaid told Asharq Al-Awsat that losing Dabiq has a symbolic and moral effect on ISIS.
“Controlling Daqib would help complete the joining line between Jarablus from one part and Azaz and Mareh from another part, and therefore prepares for the next phase of Euphrates Shield in the area of al-Baba, one of the biggest villages at the entrance of east Aleppo’s countryside,” Aba Zeid said.