Battle of al-Bab (2016)

Battle of al-Bab
Part of the Turkish military intervention in Syria

Map of the wider Turkish-led operations and the wider campaigns in northern Aleppo
Date6 November 2016 – present
(4 weeks)
LocationAl-Bab District, Aleppo Governorate, Syria


  • FSA capture 36 villages from ISIL and 4 villages from the SDF[1][2][3]
  • SDF capture 17 villages, including Arima from ISIL[4][5][6][7]
  • Pro-government forces capture 5 villages from ISIL and FSA[8][9]

Syrian opposition Free Syrian Army

 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Syrian Democratic Forces

Syrian National Resistance[11]
Syrian Arab Republic[11]

Commanders and leaders
Turkey Lt. Gen. Zekai Aksakallı[12]
(Operations chief commander)
Turkey Lt. Gen. İsmail Metin Temel[13][14]
(Second Army commander)
Syrian opposition Col. Ahmed Othman[15]
(Sultan Murad Division commander)
Syrian opposition Fehim İsa (Sultan Murad Division commander)[16]
Mahmoud Abu Hamza[17] (Descendants of Saladin Brigade commander)
Syrian opposition Capt. Yussuf Shibli[18] (Qabasin Military Council commander)
Capt. Abdel Salam Abdel Razaq[17] (Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement commander)
Capt. Mohammed Abu Mustafa[19]
(Sham Legion commander)
Abu Jafer[20] (Brigade of Conquest commander)

Adnan Abu Amjad[21] (Manbij Military Council & Northern Sun Battalion commander)

Anwar Khabat[22] (Euphrates Liberation Brigade commander)
Units involved

Turkey Turkish Armed Forces

Syrian opposition Hawar Kilis Operations Room

Other Syrian rebels
Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement[33]

Ahrar al-Sham[33][34]

Syrian Democratic Forces

Syrian National Resistance[11]

Syrian Armed Forces

Turkey 40 tanks, 15+ armoured personnel carrier Unknown Unknown
Casualties and losses
45–65 rebels[39] and 6 soldiers killed,[40] 2 soldiers captured/missing[41] 39+ killed[42][43][44] 79+ killed[45]

The Battle of al-Bab includes a military offensive launched by Syrian rebel groups (including groups affiliated with the Free Syrian Army), and the Turkish Armed Forces north of al-Bab in the Aleppo Governorate, and a separate Syrian Democratic Forces offensive east of the city. The northern operation intends to capture al-Bab from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as part of the Turkish military intervention in Syria.


Main articles: Northern al-Bab offensive (September 2016), 2016 Dabiq offensive, and Western al-Bab offensive (October–November 2016)

After the western al-Bab offensive, the rebels moved their focus from the western countryside of al-Bab so to avoid confrontation with the Syrian Democratic Forces, and launched an assault against ISIS north of al-Bab.[46]

The offensive

First week

Between 6 and 14 November 2016, the rebels captured 36 villages,[1][2] putting them within 2 kilometers of al-Bab.[47] Meanwhile, the Syrian Democratic Forces captured seven villages east of al-Bab in an attempt to besiege the village of Arima.[2][4][5]

Second week

On 14 November, rebel forces managed to enter the northern outskirts of al-Bab, but were facing stiff resistance, with fighting raging at a livestock market two kilometers north of the town.[42] By this point, al-Bab was surrounded from the north and northwest, with the only retreat route remaining for ISIL to the southeast towards Raqqa, through the ISIL-held town of Dayr Hafir.[47] In the evening, the rebels established fire control over the Jafirah Roundabout and seized several adjacent buildings in the northern part of al-Bab, leaving them in control of less than 5 percent of the city.[5] However, the next day, the rebels were forced to withdraw one kilometer to the north of al-Bab. Meanwhile, the rebels took control of the town of Qabasin, northeast of al-Bab.[3]

The Turkish military stated on 18 November, that the FSA had captured five villages in the Karadağ area of al-Rai district and added that it had also hit 80 ISIL targets and a SDF target.[48]

On 19 November, ISIL recaptured Qabasin, as well as one nearby village. This marked the fourth time the town had changed hands in the previous four days.[49]

Third week

On 20 November, the rebels launched two counter-attacks against Qabasin, with both being repelled. The next day, the rebels redirected their assault from al-Bab to the Kurdish-held village of Sheikh Nassir, managing to seize the village in the early morning hours, but losing it in an SDF counter-attack in the afternoon.[50]

Between 22 and 23 November, Qabasin changed hands two more times, ultimately remaining under ISIL control.[51][52][53] On 23 November, the SDF captured Arima. In response, Turkish artillery shelled the SDF-held villages in the area.[7][53][54]

On 24 November, according to the Turkish military, the Syrian Arab Air Force conducted an airstrike against Turkish Special Forces and aligned Turkish-backed rebels north of al-Bab, killing three Turkish soldiers and injuring ten.[55][56] Turkish officials initially stated the casualties were due to an ISIL attack, before blaming the Syrian Air Force. However, the pro-opposition activist group the SOHR disputed it was an air-strike and stated it was in fact an ISIL suicide attack. Additionally, ISIL confirmed it conducted a suicide attack in the area.[57][58] Later, the Turkish Prime Minister’s office issued a gag order on reporting about the airstrike,[56][59] while the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu called on the Turkish government to "act with common sense."[59] In the evening, the Syrian Air Force officially denied it or the Russian Air Force had conducted an air-strike against Turkish forces.[60] Concurrently during the day, the SDF, with support of government forces, captured three villages from ISIL west of al-Bab, coming within 10 kilometers of the city.[61][62] The rebels also took two villages east of al-Bab, reaching the main road between al-Bab and Manbij for the first time.[63]

Between 25 and 27 November, the SDF captured two villages from ISIL west of al-Bab, while the rebels took three to the east. Additionally, the rebels launched an attack on two SDF-held villages east of the city, with unclear results. At the same time, pro-government forces also advanced, taking control of four villages from IS west of al-Bab.[8]

Fourth week

On 28 November, the Syrian Army captured a village from the Turkish-backed rebels west of al-Bab, coming within 5 kilometers of the city.[9][64]


  1. 1 2 After reaching the edges of al-Bab city… the “Euphrates Shield” factions expand their controlled areas in the vicinity of the city and its countryside
  2. 1 2 3 Tomson, Chris (7 November 2016). "Syrian rebels seize seven villages in major advance towards ISIS stronghold of al-Bab". Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  3. 1 2 Tomson, Chris (15 November 2016). "Turkish-backed rebels overrun another ISIS-held town near al-Bab". Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  4. 1 2 The Syria Democratic Forces are trying to besiege al-Arima and factions of “Euphrates Shield” advance in the vicinity of al-Bab with clashes on its frontiers
  5. 1 2 3 Tomson, Chris (15 November 2016). "Syrian rebels storm ISIS stronghold of al-Bab in northern Aleppo - Map". Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  6. US-backed Kurds seize 9 villages from ISIS while Turkish-backed rebels attack both
  7. 1 2 "A large number of injuries in the continued "Turkish Shelling" on the control areas of Manbij Military Council". Syria HR. 23 November 2016.
  8. 1 2 Syria civil war: All eyes on strategic town of al-Bab, marking a crucial new phase in the conflict
  9. 1 2 Syrian Army captures first village from Turkish-backed rebels on the outskirts of al-Bab
  10. Syria_Rebel_Obs (17 November 2016). "RARE PIC" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 Chris Tomson (29 November 2016). "Syrian Army captures first village from Turkish-backed rebels on the outskirts of al-Bab". al-Masdar News. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  12. Turkish Special Forces: From stopping a coup to the frontline of the ISIL fight Hürriyet Daily News, 24 August 2016.
  13. Nick Tattersall; Humeyra Pamuk (26 August 2016). "Turkey signals no quick end to Syria incursion as truck bomb kills police". Reuters.
  14. "Korgeneral İsmail Metin Temel Cerablus'ta". Hürriyet Daily News. 26 August 2016.
  15. "Turkish Forces and Rebels Storm Into Syria, Taking IS Stronghold of Jarablus". VOA. 24 August 2016.
  17. 1 2 3 "Turkish-backed FSA rebels set their sights on last IS Aleppo stronghold after border victory". Syria:direct. 5 September 2016.
  18. "LCC Qabasin rejects Qabasin MC". Yallasouriya. 13 November 2016.
  19. "ÖSO komutanlarından Türkiye'ye teşekkür". 25 August 2016.
  20. "41K Turkish soldiers ready to support operation Al Bab". Yeni Şafak. 22 September 2016. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  21. "Turkey calls on US, allies to reconsider Syria no-fly zone". AP. 21 November 2016.
  23. "Çobanbey'in ardından muhaliflerin yeni hedefi Cerablus". AJANS HABER. 9 April 2016.
  24. "LIVE: Turkish military, coalition forces launch 'Euphrates Shield' operation in Jarablus". Hürriyet Daily News. 24 August 2016.
  25. Serhat Erkmen (1 September 2016). "Analiz: Fırat Kalkanı'nda bir haftalık bilanço". DW.
  26. "Syria à la Carte: Turkish Invasion Highlights Rapidly Shifting Alliances-Maximilian Popp and Christoph Reuter". JK Alternative Viewpoint. 31 August 2016.
  27. Albin Szakola (25 August 2016). "Turkey-backed rebels aim for key ISIS-held town". NOW.
  28. "Turkish-led forces capture first village in northern Syria". al-Masdar News. 24 August 2016.
  29. "New rebel group formed in Idlib". AMN. 20 September 2016.
  30. Caleb Weiss (29 August 2016). "Two US-backed groups clash in northern Syria". The Long War Journal.
  31. "فرقة حلب الأولى - The first band of Aleppo". First Division of Aleppo on Facebook. 18 September 2016.
  32. Christoph Ehrhardt (26 August 2016). "Krieg in Syrien - Die Trennlinien verschwimmen". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German).
  33. 1 2 Susan Fraser; Philip Issa (24 August 2016). "U.S. warplanes support Turkish tanks attacking Islamic State forces in Syria". Military Times.
  34. "fouad sarkis on Twitter". Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  35. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Chris Tomson (26 November 2016). "Turkish-backed rebels, Syrian Army and Kurdish forces all advance in race to al-Bab". al-Masdar News. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  37. "Shahba forces". RUMAF. 1 December 2016.
  38. SY_newsagency (26 November 2016). "HUGE GAINS for the newly formed Protection unit !" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  39. 1 killed (6 Nov.), 4 killed (7 Nov.), 2 killed (9 Nov.), 4 killed (10 Nov.), 8 killed (11 Nov.), 5 killed (12 Nov.), 2 killed (13 Nov.), 9 killed (14 Nov.), 2 killed (15 Nov.), 2 killed (16 Nov.), 2–22 killed (19 Nov.), 1 killed (20 Nov.), 4 killed (24 Nov.), total of 45–65 reported killed
  40. One Turkish soldier killed fighting Daesh, 5 injured in Syria
  41. The Latest: Turkey Says 2 Soldiers Missing in Syria
  42. 1 2 ‘It’s game over’: Turkish-backed rebels 2km away from Islamic State stronghold of al-Bab
  43. Suriye'nin kuzeyindeki terör hedeflerine yönelik devam eden harekatta, DEAŞ üyesi 4 terörist etkisiz hale getirildi
  44. 10 killed (14 November), 5 killed (15 November), 12 killed (19 November), 1 killed (20 November), 14 killed (21-22 November), 6 killed (23 November), 2 killed (24 November), 7 killed (27 November), 20 killed (28–29 November), 2 killed (1 December), total of 79 reported killed
  45. "Julian Röpcke on Twitter". Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  46. 1 2 "Turkey-backed Syria rebels 'just two kilometres' from IS bastion". The New Arab. 13 November 2016.
  47. Paksoy, Yunus (18 November 2016). "PKK's Syrian wing YPG attacking FSA to disrupt anti-Daesh al-Bab offensive". Daily Sabah. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  48. ISIS retakes town near al-Bab during deadly ambush on Turkish-backed rebels
  49. Turkish-backed rebels pause battle for al-Bab to launch huge attack on Kurdish forces
  50. Rebels backed by Turkish forces advance over IS in Aleppo countryside
  51. Turkish-backed rebels recapture Qabasin town in northern Aleppo
  52. 1 2 Huge three-way battle unfolds near al-Bab as all parties seize territory in the same day
  53. "Human losses in Turkish forces and in aerial bombardment on al-Arima". Syrian Observatory of Human Rights. 24 November 2016.
  54. "Three Turkish soldiers killed in regime attack in Syria: Military". Hurriyet Daily News. 24 November 2016.
  55. 1 2 "Turkish soldiers killed by Syrian air strike: Military". Al Jazeera. 24 November 2016.
  56. Turkish army blames Syrian government for killing its soldiers
  57. IS conflict: Turkish soldiers killed in Syria attack
  58. 1 2 "CHP warns of 'perilous process' after Syrian regime air strike hits Turkish troops". Hurriyet Daily News. 24 November 2016.
  59. Syrian Air Force denies bombing Turkish Army in east Aleppo
  60. The Syria Democratic Forces approaching from the west of al-Bab city and control several villages
  61. Syrian Army, Kurdish forces liberate several villages in east Aleppo: map
  62. Turkish-backed rebels seize two villages east of al-Bab during outflanking manuever
  63. Syrian Civil War Map
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