Battle of al-Rai (August 2016)

Battle of al-Rai (August 2016)
Part of the Syrian Civil War

Map of the greater campaign in the Aleppo Governorate which includes al-Rai
Date15–20 August 2016 (5 days)
LocationAl-Bab District, northern Aleppo Governorate, Syria-Turkey border

FSA victory

  • First FSA attack on al-Rai repelled
  • The FSA gains full control over al-Rai after a second offensive
  • FSA repels a second ISIL counter-offensive

Syrian opposition Free Syrian Army
Supported by:

 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Commanders and leaders
Syrian opposition Ismail Ahwaz[2]
(FSA commander)
Saleh Zein[3]
(Sham Legion field commander)
Col. Ahmed Osman[4]
(Sultan Murad Division squad commander)
Lt. Col. Abdul Moneim[4]
(Northern Division commander)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Unnamed ISIL leader (POW)[5]
Units involved

Syrian opposition Free Syrian Army

Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki
Sham Legion
Turkish Armed Forces

Military of ISIL

Casualties and losses
10+ killed[6]

The Battle of al-Rai was a battle in August 2016 between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the border town of al-Rai, part of the northern Aleppo Governorate on the border with Turkey, which resulted in the FSA capturing the town.


On 8 April 2016, rebels from the Hawar Kilis Operations Room captured al-Rai and more than a dozen other villages, but withdrew after an ISIL counteroffensive 3 days later that recaptured almost all the villages they have lost. The rebels also briefly took over the town for a few hours in June before being driven out.[3]

The battle

On 15 August 2016, after heavy artillery bombardment rebels began to storm the al-Rai grain silos and captured the silos along with several other positions.[7] However, they were forced to withdraw the next morning after an ISIL counterattack from the north which recaptured all the points ISIL lost.[8] Landmines played a role in slowing down the offensive.[2]

On 17 August, FSA fighters launched a second assault after targeting IS positions with rocket artillery, breaking through the first lines of defense and re-entering the town.[9] The FSA blew up 3 car bombs during the battle[10] and fully captured al-Rai and its border crossing later that day, taking a number of surrendering ISIL militants as prisoners of war.[5]

On the same day, the USAF operating as part of the CJTF-OIR conducted air support for the rebels during the battle by bombing several IS units near al-Rai.[11] Fighting continued in the outskirts of the town as ISIL retained its headquarters in nearby Dudyan.[2]

Due to the short time given to rebels to fortify the area, IS launched a rapid counter-offensive from the east on 19 August and recaptured the grain silos and nearby hilltops.[12] However, the rebels repelled the attack on the town and claimed to have killed more than 10 IS fighters.[6] FSA fighters also recaptured the grain silos the next day.[4]


On 20 August, a large number of rebels and a military convoy containing more than 50 vehicles loaded with heavy and medium weapons from al-Rai were transferred to the Turkish border with Jarabulus, as the Turkish Armed Forces prepared for an attack on Jarabulus.[1]

Between 27 and 28 August, the rebels claimed to had capture three villages east of al-Rai.[13][14] However, it was reported that on 27 August, IS recaptured al-Rai.[15][16] The next day, al-Rai was once again reported to be rebel-held.[17] By 4 September, FSA captured all of the ISIL-controlled territory along the Turkish-Syrian border.[18]


  1. 1 2 3 "Opposition groups are preparing to break into Jarabulus, northern Aleppo, from Turkey". ARA News. 20 August 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 "Lacking military coordination in battles against state regulation". Qasioun. 17 August 2016.
  3. 1 2 "Factions of the opposition control grain near al-Rai in northern Aleppo". ARA News. 15 August 2016.
  4. 1 2 3 "After the capture of al-Rai, will Turkey force the FSA to fight in Jarabulus?". Al-Quds. 20 August 2016.
  5. 1 2 "Syria news today from Aleppo and Damascus: factions capture town in northern Aleppo countryside from Daesh". 18 August 2016.
  6. 1 2 "10 Daesh members killed while trying to break into northern Aleppo". All4Syria. 19 August 2016.
  7. "Islamists fail to capture Al-Rai in northern Aleppo". Al-Masdar News. 16 August 2016.
  8. "Daesh regain control of points it lost in the town of al-Rai in northern Aleppo". ARA News. 16 August 2016.
  9. "Syrian opposition entering the town of al-Rai on the border with Turkey". Sky News Arabia. 17 August 2016.
  10. "The Syrian opposition take prisoners in the town of al-Rai, north of Aleppo". Qasioun. 18 August 2016.
  11. "Military Strikes Continue Against ISIL Terrorists in Syria and Iraq" (PDF). Inherent Resolve. 17 August 2016.
  12. "ISIS recaptures key town in northern Aleppo". Al-Masdar News. 19 August 2016.
  13. "FSA advanced from al-Rai town and took control of Haddabat and Thaljat Gharbi village". Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  14. "FSA capture Sheikh/Mulla Ya'qub east of al-Ra'i". Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  15. Keating, Fiona (27 August 2016). "Isis recaptures Syrian border town al-Rai after defeat in Jarablus by Turkish-backed rebels". Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  16. Charkatli, Izat (27 August 2016). "ISIS recaptures Al-Rai following massive attack". Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  17. "Peto Lucem on Twitter". Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  18. IS is losing connection with the international world and being besieged inside the Syrian lands SOHR (4 September 2016)
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