Western al-Bab offensive (October–November 2016)

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Western al-Bab offensive (October–November 2016)
Part of the Syrian Civil War, the Syrian Kurdish-Islamist conflict (2013-present), and the Turkish military intervention in Syria
Western al-Bab offensive (2016) (within Northern Syria).svg
Map of the wider Turkish-led operations and the wider campaigns in northern Aleppo
Date18 October – 3 November 2016
(2 weeks and 2 days)
LocationAzaz District, Aleppo Governorate

Major advances by rebels, SDF and Army over ISIL; SDF repels rebel assault

  • 36 villages captured from ISIL by the rebels (16), SDF (14) and Army (6);[5][6][7] Army also captures the Muslamiyah Cement Factory and Aleppo Infantry College[2][8]
  • SDF repels a number of rebel assaults on its frontline[9] and captures a number of villages from the rebels[10][11]
  • ISIL recaptured parts of Akhtarin and 17 surrounding villages and hills from the rebels[12]

Syrian Democratic Forces

Syrian Arab Republic[2][3]

 Islamic State  Turkey
Syrian opposition Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army
Commanders and leaders
Ahmed Sultan[13]
(Army of Revolutionaries deputy commander)
Abu Steyf[14]
(Jabhat al-Akrad commander)
Maj. Khaled Najib[15]
(Northern Democratic Brigade commander)
Abu Rami al-Homsi  (Homs Commandos Brigade general commander)[16]

Turkey Lt. Gen. Zekai Aksakallı[17]
(Operations chief commander)
Turkey Lt. Gen. İsmail Metin Temel[18][19]
(Second Army commander)
Syrian opposition Col. Ahmed Othman[20]
(Sultan Murad Division commander)

Syrian oppositionLogo of the Hamza Division.jpg Saif Abu Bakr[21]
(Hamza Division commander)
Syrian opposition Abu Jinan [1][22]
(Levant Front commander)
Syrian opposition Fadel Lahmouni (WIA)[23]
(Northern Storm Brigade commander)
Syrian opposition Muhammad al-Gabi (DOW)[24]
(Liberation Army commander)
Abdul Salam Abed[25]
(Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement commander)
Syrian opposition Abu Mahmoud der Jamal[26]
(First Regiment commander)
Units involved

Syrian Democratic Forces

Syrian Armed Forces (since 29 October)


Turkey Turkish Armed Forces

Syrian opposition Hawar Kilis Operations Room

Freemen of the East
Ahrar al-Sham[31][32]
Unknown 3,000+ militants[33] Unknown
Casualties and losses
60+ killed (per SOHR and SDF)[34]
172–212 killed (per Turkey)[35]
37+ killed[36] 85–90 rebels and 4 Turkish soldiers killed (per SOHR, Inside Source and Turkey)[*][37]
4 civilians, 1 journalist killed[38][39]
* No confirmation of soldier deaths by Turkey.[40]

The western al-Bab offensive (October–November 2016) was a multi-sided military confrontation between the Syrian Army, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) (including some allied Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions), other (Turkey-backed) FSA factions, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the countryside of northwestern Aleppo Governorate, south of the towns of Mare' and Tel Rifaat.


On 18 October, the Hamza Division's Northern Thunder Brigade issued an ultimatum to the "PKK" and the Army of Revolutionaries, warning them to leave Tell Rifaat within 48 hours, after which they would attack the town.[41]

The offensive[edit]

First week[edit]

Map of the offensive

On 18 and 19 October, in response to Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army forces moving south following their capture of the town of Dabiq from ISIL and reaching the northern shore of the Shahba Reservoir, the Syrian Democratic Forces advanced to the southeast and captured several villages on the southern shore of the reservoir, including the dam.[42][43] In response to the advance, rebel and Turkish artillery in the countryside of Azaz shelled positions of the Army of Revolutionaries in Herbel and other villages under the control of the SDF.[44] Meanwhile, the Turkish Air Force also conducted 26 airstrikes on SDF positions in the area.[45]

On 20 October, the rebels seized the Hasiyah farms (which the SDF had taken from ISIL),[46] although the SDF still controlled the village of Hasiyah.[47][48] Meanwhile, ISIL recaptured a hill from the SDF.[49] The next day, fighting raged around three villages as the rebels attempted to advance against the SDF,[50] while the Turkey-backed forces managed to capture one other.[51] Concurrently, the SDF withdrew from six villages previously held by ISIL to avoid being cut off by the Turkish-backed rebels.[52] Later that evening, the rebels withdrew after 10 hours of fighting, being unable to advance,[53][54] while the SDF managed to recapture the village and farms they lost.[55] The SDF started preparations for a second rebel attack expected the next day.[56]

On 22 October, a new rebel assault, backed-up by Turkish tanks, was repelled,[57][58] with one Turkish tank reportedly being hit by the SDF.[59] Fighting was concentrated near Tell Rifaat, while Turkish tanks were positioned at both Tell Rifaat and Mare'.[60] The next day, the SDF seized a farm in a counter-attack in the area of the Shahba dam, where they captured a rebel BMP-1 armored vehicle. A drone was also shot down by the SDF.[28][61]

On 23 October, Turkish artillery continued shelling Sheikh Issa and Herbel, and Jandairis to the west away from the front was also extensively shelled.[61] According to Hawar, bodies of 20 dead rebels were returned to Azaz, causing some rebels to refuse to join the fight against the SDF due to the heavy casualties and which led to internecine clashes.[62] The next day, there were reports that the Levant Front ceased their attacks on the SDF and had retreated east.[63] In contrast, the Hamza Division declared their continued determination to fight the pro-YPG forces and that the offensive against the SDF would soon resume.[21] Meanwhile, rebel advances against ISIL resumed, with the rebels capturing five villages and a farm area.[64]

Second week[edit]

On 25 October, the Turkish-backed rebels launched a new attack on the SDF, but the latter managed to repel the assault and retake three villages they had temporarily lost. Heavy fighting continued at Tal al-Madiq, where the SDF destroyed four rebel vehicles. Pro-rebel media accused the SDF of being helped by the Syrian Arab Air Force and Russian Air Force, while pro-Kurdish media claimed that the rebels had used chemical weapons during their offensive.[4][65][66] By the next day, the SDF reportedly captured two villages from rebel forces in a counter-attack.[10]

On 27 October, the rebels captured a number of villages from ISIL, encountering little resistance,[67] while the SDF advanced north of Tal al-Madiq and near the Turkish border against the Levant Front and Turkish-backed FSA units.[68]

Between 28 and 30 October, the SDF and the Syrian Army began to openly cooperate against ISIL, with both sides supporting each other during their advances.[2] They captured 17 villages in total (as well as several farms) from ISIL, with 11 placed under SDF control and six (as well as Muslamiyah Cement Factory and Aleppo Infantry College) placed under Syrian Army control after a deal was made between the Army High Command and the SDF. Under the terms of this deal, the SAA was given control of a large buffer-zone around the northern perimeter of the Sheikh Najjar Industrial District in exchange for letting the SDF capture Al-Bab, should they reach it before the government.[2][8] At the same time, ISIL forces launched a counter-attack against the Turkish-backed rebels, retaking a village.[69] On 31 October, the SDF seized three villages and the Hassin farms from the Levant Front and FSA units.[70][71]

Third week[edit]

On 1 November, ISIL recaptured 17 villages, including Akhtarin, from the rebels.[72][73][74] The next day, the rebels recaptured most of Akhtarin, however ISIL forces still controlled minor parts of the town amid attempts by the rebels to drive them out.[12][74] Meanwhile, heavy mortar and artillery bombardment by both Turkish-backed rebels and ISIL targeted SDF positions, killing over 20 and wounding dozens. The SDF accused both factions of co-ordinating their shelling.[75]


In early November 2016, a 'battalion' from the Sham Legion defected and joined the SDFs Manbij Military Council.[76]

At this point, the rebels shifted their focus from the western countryside of al-Bab so to avoid confrontation by the SDF and launched an assault against ISIL north of al-Bab.[77] Between 6 and 13 November, the rebels captured 29 villages, putting them within seven kilometers of al-Bab.[78][79]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Ongoing battles in Shahba, a mercenary commander killed". Hawar News Agency. 27 October 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Tomson, Chris (29 October 2016). "Syrian Army captures massive area from ISIS in blitz offensive north of Aleppo". Almasdarnews.com. Retrieved 8 November 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "Al-Assad regime supports PYD militia, the latter makes funeral for dozens". El-Dorar Al-Shamia. 23 October 2016. Retrieved 23 October 2016. 
  4. ^ a b "SDF Backed Up By Syrian Regime Warplanes Carry Out An Offensive Over Euphrates Shield Positions In Aleppo". Qasioun News. 25 October 2016. 
  5. ^ Ionita, Cristian. "Azaz_AlBab_October_20 3 pm". Edmaps.com. Retrieved 8 November 2016. 
  6. ^ Ionita, Cristian. "Azaz_AlBab_November_4 10 pm". Edmaps.com. Retrieved 8 November 2016. 
  7. ^ Fadel, Leith (6 November 2016). "Syrian Army takes control of Aleppo Infantry Academy after peace deal with Kurds: map". Almasdarnews.com. 
  8. ^ a b Fadel, Leith (6 November 2016). "Syrian Army takes control of Aleppo Infantry Academy after peace deal with Kurds: map". Almasdarnews.com. Retrieved 8 November 2016. 
  9. ^ "US denies involvement in Tukey's campaign against the SDF, expresses concern - ARA News". Almasdarnews.com. 25 October 2016. Retrieved 27 October 2016. 
  10. ^ a b Leith Fadel (26 October 2016). "Kurdish forces expel Turkish-backed rebels from northern Aleppo village". al-Masdar News. 
  11. ^ "Battle for A'Zaz-Al-Bab Area Map" (PNG). Edmaps.com. Retrieved 2017-01-27. 
  12. ^ a b [1]
  13. ^ "Rebel Army leader: we control the village of Um Hosh in northern Aleppo". Qassioun News Agency. 31 August 2016. 
  14. ^ "Kurds Front to Shahba residents: be patient, we are coming". Hawar News Agency. 3 September 2016. 
  15. ^ "Brigade Democratic North: We are still in control of our sites ... and constant battles against northern Aleppo opposition (permit)". Qasioun News. 22 October 2016. 
  16. ^ a b "A statement to the public". Rebel Army. 2 November 2016. 
  17. ^ Turkish Special Forces: From stopping a coup to the frontline of the ISIL fight Hürriyet Daily News, 24 August 2016.
  18. ^ Nick Tattersall; Humeyra Pamuk (26 August 2016). "Turkey signals no quick end to Syria incursion as truck bomb kills police". Reuters. 
  19. ^ "Korgeneral İsmail Metin Temel Cerablus'ta". Hürriyet Daily News. 26 August 2016. 
  20. ^ "Turkish Forces and Rebels Storm Into Syria, Taking IS Stronghold of Jarablus". VOA. 24 August 2016. 
  21. ^ a b c "Commander of Hamza squad: our battles did not stop against SDF". Qasion News. 24 August 2016. 
  22. ^ "Al-Shameya Front commander killed, 7 vehicles destroyed". Hawar News Agency. 26 October 2016. 
  23. ^ a b "North Storm: commander wounded and his bodyguard killed". Hawar News Agency. 23 October 2016. 
  24. ^ "(PLA) chooses a new leader created for Gabi". All4Syria. 11 November 2016. 
  25. ^ "Over 4 days, what happened in Shahba areas?". Hawar News Agency. 23 October 2016. 
  26. ^ a b "#Euphrates_Shield Resumes to expand towards al-Bab". El-Dorar Al-Shamia. 27 October 2016. 
  27. ^ "Kurds Front: we will resist to the last gasp". Hawar News Agency. 24 October 2016. 
  28. ^ a b Chris Tomson (23 October 2016). "Kurdish forces capture village in northern Aleppo as the Turkish Army redeploys". al-Masdar News. Retrieved 23 October 2016. 
  29. ^ Syrian Rebellion Obs [@Syria_Rebel_Obs] (11 November 2016). "#SRO - EXCLUSIVE - Liwa al-Qaqaa was one of Jaysh al-Thuwar for #Afrin then became autonomous in #SDF as Liwa al-Shamal al-Democrati (END)" (Tweet). Retrieved 2017 – via Twitter.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  30. ^ @JohnArterbury (28 October 2016). "Euphrates Shield-affiliated Bloc of Victory operations room -- evidently a new ops room -- announces statement" (Tweet) – via Twitter. 
  31. ^ a b Susan Fraser; Philip Issa (24 August 2016). "U.S. warplanes support Turkish tanks attacking Islamic State forces in Syria". Military Times. 
  32. ^ fouad sarkis [@el_sarkis] (20 September 2016). "Ahrar al sham entered officially #EuphratesShield battle #Aleppo" (Tweet). Retrieved 2017 – via Twitter.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  33. ^ "Turkey bogged down in Syria as it realigns with Russia". Dailymail.co.uk. Retrieved 13 January 2017. 
  34. ^ 7 killed (18–19 October),[2] 22 killed (20–23 October), [3] 6 killed (25 October), [4] 5 killed (27 October),[5] 20+ killed (2 November), [6] total of 60+ reported killed
  35. ^ 160–200 (20–23 October), [7] 3 killed (22 October),[8] 9 killed (26 October), [9] total of 172–212 claimed killed
  36. ^ 10 killed (19 October), [10] 1 killed (20 October),[11] 11 killed (23 October), [12] 15+ killed (1–3 November), [13] total of 37+ reported killed
  37. ^ 3 killed (19 Oct.),[14] 20–25 rebels and 4 soldiers killed (20–22 Oct.; against SDF),[15][16][17] 7 killed (22 Oct.; against ISIL),[18] 5 killed (24 Oct.),[19] 15 killed (25–26 Oct.),[20][21] 8 killed (28 Oct.),[22] 3 killed (29 Oct.),[23] 6 killed (31 Oct.),[24] 3 killed (2 Nov.),[25] 10 killed (4 Nov.),[26] 5 killed (5 Nov.),[27] total of 85–90 rebels and 4 soldiers reported killed
  38. ^ Violent clashes between the Turkish forces and the "Euphrates Shield" against The Syria Democratic Forces near Marea
  39. ^ "Jayesh Athuwar: we will continue to defend our lands". Hawar News Agency. 23 October 2016. 
  40. ^ "DEAŞ ve PKK/PYD hedefleri vuruldu". Aa.com.tr. Retrieved 27 October 2016. 
  41. ^ "FSA poised for showdown with Kurdish forces in Aleppo". The New Arab. 19 October 2016. 
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  43. ^ @Syria_Rebel_Obs (18 October 2016). "As #Turkey was already celebrating cutting #SDF possibilities to move toward #Bab, SDF launching its own offensive tonight" (Tweet) – via Twitter. 
  44. ^ "Athuwar army: our target is fighting Daesh". Hawar News Agency. 19 October 2016. 
  45. ^ "Turkish jets strike U.S.-backed Kurdish militia in Syria". Reuters. 20 October 2016. 
  46. ^ "After Battles Against SDF … Syrian Opposition Seize Hasya Farms Northern Aleppo". Qasion News Agency. Retrieved 27 October 2016. 
  47. ^ Syrian Rebellion Obs [@Syria_Rebel_Obs] (20 October 2016). "#SRO - Hasiyah under Jaysh al-Thuwar control. Islamists and salafis groups entered the farms evacuated yesterday af…" (Tweet). Retrieved 2017 – via Twitter.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  48. ^ Syrian Civil War Map [@CivilWarMap] (20 October 2016). "Hassiyah is still under #SDF control. Reports that #FSA captured the village are false" (Tweet). Retrieved 2017 – via Twitter.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  49. ^ [28]
  50. ^ [29]
  51. ^ Syrian Rebellion Obs [@Syria_Rebel_Obs] (21 October 2016). "ADD: in fact first real battle for #Turkey. They only took one village (Samuqah as #SDF retreated) in hours. #IS never give them resistance" (Tweet). Retrieved 2017 – via Twitter.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  52. ^ "Battle for A'Zaz-Al-Bab Area" (PNG). Edmaps.com. Retrieved 2017-01-27. 
  53. ^ Syrian Rebellion Obs [@Syria_Rebel_Obs] (21 October 2016). "[LOCAL SOURCE - They're leaving position in Bir Sabah after 10 hours without any advances into Harbol and Umm Hosh. Turkey covered retreat]" (Tweet). Retrieved 2017 – via Twitter.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  54. ^ Thomas van Linge [@ThomasVLinge] (21 October 2016). "#Syria: at the end of the day #FSA failed to make any advances, #SDF rebels are putting up hard resistance" (Tweet). Retrieved 2017 – via Twitter.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  55. ^ Syrian Rebellion Obs [@Syria_Rebel_Obs] (21 October 2016). "#SRO - URGENT - #SDF launching night offensive: Samuqah retaken, north Hasiyah (for a second time), advancing toward Said Ali and Tal Malid" (Tweet). Retrieved 2017 – via Twitter.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  56. ^ Syrian Rebellion Obs [@Syria_Rebel_Obs] (21 October 2016). "ADD.: workers only working with few lights and under #SDF snipers cover. New earth walls as second huge #Turkey offensive expected tomorrow" (Tweet). Retrieved 2017 – via Twitter.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  57. ^ "An attack repelled, 19 mercenaries were killed". Hawar News Agency. Retrieved 27 October 2016. 
  58. ^ [30]
  59. ^ "Revolutionary Forces destroy a Turkish tank in the Shahba region". Hawar News Agency. Retrieved 27 October 2016. 
  60. ^ "The Latest: Turkey Troops, Rebels Battle Kurdish-led Militia". Newsmax.com. Retrieved 27 October 2016. 
  61. ^ a b [31]
  62. ^ "After many defeats, clashes break out between mercenaries". Hawar News Agency. 23 October 2016. 
  63. ^ "Jabhit al-Shamiya and Turkish occupation head for Bab". Hawar News Agency. 24 October 2016. 
  64. ^ [32]
  65. ^ "Continuous clashes at the outskirts Aleppo and violent clashes between "Euphrates Shield" and The Syria Democratic Forces in the northern countryside of Aleppo". SOHR. 25 October 2016. 
  66. ^ "The Revolutionary Front foils assaults on the Shahba region". Hawar News Agency. 25 October 2016. 
  67. ^ Chris Tomson (28 October 2016). "Kurdish forces, Syrian rebels both advance in race to ISIS stronghold of Al-Bab". al-Masdar News. 
  68. ^ Leith Fadel (28 October 2016). "Kurdish-led forces advance in northern Aleppo". al-Masdar News. 
  69. ^ [33]
  70. ^ Leith Fadel (31 October 2016). "Kurdish forces capture several villages from Turkish-backed rebels in northern Aleppo". al-Masdar News. 
  71. ^ "SDF seize over three villages in north of Aleppo". Qasion News. 31 October 2016. 
  72. ^ "وكالة سمارت للأنباء - تنظيم "الدولة" يستعيد السيطرة على قرى جنوبي أخترين بحلب". SMART News Agency. Retrieved 2017-01-27. 
  73. ^ "ISIS Re-Seize 12 Villages Northern Aleppo". Qasion News Agency. 
  74. ^ a b [34]
  75. ^ "Islamic State, Turkey-backed rebels launch simultaneous attacks on Kurdish positions". ARA News. 3 November 2016. Retrieved 4 November 2016. 
  76. ^ Syrian Rebellion Obs [@Syria_Rebel_Obs] (7 November 2016). "#SRO - #Manbij Military Council proud to announce its first defector from Faylaq ash-#Sham to join them, Saddam al-…" (Tweet). Retrieved 2017 – via Twitter.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  77. ^ Julian Röpcke [@JulianRoepcke] (8 November 2016). "#NewsMap Seemingly in a move to avoid #YPG troops, #EuphratesShield forces advance on #ISIS-held al-Bab from the no…" (Tweet). Retrieved 2017 – via Twitter.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  78. ^ [35]
  79. ^ Chris Tomson. "Syrian rebels seize seven villages in major advance towards ISIS stronghold of al-Bab". Almasdarnews.com. Retrieved 2017-01-27.