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Turkey Asks U.S.-Led Coalition for Air Support at Syria’s Al-Bab | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army fighters gather during their advance towards the Islamic State-held town of al-Bab, northern Aleppo, Syria, Oct. 26, 2016. (Photo: Reuters)

Ankara, Beirut- Turkey asked on Monday for the help of U.S.-led International coalition air support, as a confession that Ankara faces difficulties in bringing to an end the battle for recuperating the Syrian city of al-Bab from ISIS.

“The international coalition must carry out its duties regarding aerial support to the battle we are fighting in al-Bab. Not giving the necessary support is unacceptable,” President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, told a news conference on Monday.

On Sunday, Turkey sent new military reinforcements to its military forces and allied rebel groups in northern Syria.

Several weeks ago, the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army besieged the city of al-Bab with a slow advancement towards the city in light of an unprecedented loss in the ranks of the Turkish army that has not been witnessed since Ankara launched its Euphrates Shield operation in Jarablus last August to clear its borders from ISIS members and Kurdish fighters.

During their al-Bab battle, the Euphrates Shield forces have controlled two main roads linking al-Bab to Manbij and Aleppo, in addition to al-Bab hospital used by ISIS for storing weapons.

But, the operation faced extreme difficulties with the widespread of ISIS in the city, where tens of civilians were killed by Turkish air and ground assaults against ISIS positions.

In a statement issued on Monday, the Turkish army said at least 30 civilians were killed by ISIS explosives planted on Sunday while fleeing Al-Bab in northern Syria.

The statement said ISIS was threatening civilians by forcing them to stay in Al-Bab and by building several barricades on main roads and streets to prevent them from leaving the area.

The Army also said that last Friday, ISIS shot and executed a civilian, Moustafa Hazzuri, for trying to escape from Al-Bab. Hazzuri’s body was then displayed until Sunday night in the town square as a warning to other civilians.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 100 civilians were killed in al-Bab by Turkish air and ground assaults.

Commenting on whether the Euphrates Shield forces would move to Manbij in line with what President Erdogan already stated, Kalin said there was a deal with the U.S. to move Kurdish fighters from Manbij to eastern Euphrates. “We are still attached to our position and we are closely following up the issue.”

Kalin added that Ankara was still deliberating with Washington concerning the operation to liberate Raqqa from ISIS.

“We told them we would not accept that Kurds enter Raqqa. We would not allow a terrorist organization to replace another one,” he said referring to the Syrian Democratic Forces, which mainly include Kurds.

In Doha, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Qatari counterpart Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani met on Monday where they discussed the latest developments in Syria in the presence of Riad Hijab, chief coordinator of the Syrian opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC).

Diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday that Ankara was conducting extensive talks with each of Russia, Iran and Syrian opposition factions in the framework of preparing for the Astana talks.

The sources said Turkey is insisting on inviting the HNC and military factions to the Kazakhstani capital.