TURKEY PRESSES OFFENSIVE AS TURKISH-BACKED REBELS ADVANCES IN NORTHERN SYRIA

ANKARA, -- Turkey said it will press its military offensive in Syria until Daesh is driven from the town of al-Bab, despite a warning from forces allied to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a helicopter attack on the rebels it backs.

Turkey's incursion into Syria, launched two months ago to drive Daesh from its border and prevent Kurdish militia fighters gaining ground in their wake, has complicated an already messy battlefield in northern Syria.

As the Turkish-backed rebels push south towards al-Bab, a Daesh-held town 35 km northeast of Aleppo, they face confrontation with both Kurdish and pro-Assad forces, whose frontlines lie close by.

The field commander of the forces allied to the Syrian leader - which include the Lebanese group Hezbollah, Iraqi militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards - warned Turkey any advance towards their positions north and east of Aleppo would be met "decisively and with force".

The commander, who was not identified by name, nationality or affiliation made the comments during a tour of frontlines to the north of Aleppo. They came a day after what the Turkish military said was a barrel bomb attack on the rebels its backs by a Syrian helicopter.

"This kind of attack will not stop our fight against Daesh," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a news conference in the capital Ankara.

"This operation will continue until al-Bab. The operation needs to continue, and it will," he said.

The Turkish military said a helicopter "assessed to belong to regime forces" bombed the rebels in a village near Akhtarin, a town 5 km southeast of Dabiq, late on Tuesday. Dabiq is a former Daesh stronghold which the rebels seized from the jihadists this month.

Meanwhile, Turkish-backed rebel forces in northern Syria have gained control of three areas in the last 24 hours as they press a two-month-old operation to drive Daesh and Kurdish militia forces from the border, the Turkish army said.

It said Turkish howitzers shelled 72 Daesh and 15 Kurdish YPG militia targets as part of the "Euphrates Shield" operation launched in August, which has also been backed by Turkish warplanes and tanks.

With ground and air fire support the Syrian rebels "largely secured control" over the areas of Tuways, Al Gharz and Tlatinah south of Akhtarin, the military statement said, adding five rebels were killed and 28 wounded in the latest clashes.

The assault appeared to mark the first advance by the rebels in several days, widening the territory which they have seized since the start of the operation to 1,280 square kilometres, according to the statement.

Aircraft from the U.S.-led coalition carried out four air strikes, killing four Daesh fighters and destroying two buildings and two vehicles, it said.

Turkish-backed rebels fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army crossed into northern Syria on Aug 24 and took control of the border town of Jarablus from Daesh largely unopposed.

President Tayyip Erdogan said the Turkish-backed forces would press on to the Daesh-held town of al-Bab, around 15 km from their current location.

The Syrian military said last week the presence of Turkish troops on Syrian soil was unacceptable and a "dangerous escalation and flagrant breach of Syria's sovereignty".

Source: Nam News Network