Syrian rebels say close to taking strategic ISIL stronghold of al-Bab

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed to Sputnik that Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed condolences to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over an accidental Russian airstrike that had killed Turkish soldiers in Syria. Everything is going according to our plan.

A senior military expert underlined that the Syrian army will not let the Turkish army or Kurdish forces to win control of the strategic city of al-Bab in Northern Aleppo province. "The city will soon be retaken", he said.

Though small and out of the way, al-Bab is shaping up to be the weather vane for the rest of the conflict as the United Nations plans to convene Syria peace talks in Geneva on February 20. "Once that city is secured, the whole region will be free of Daesh". This while the Syrian regime's troops continued to push towards the city from the south, cutting off a main ISIS supply route.

The cease-fire, in place since December 30, has excluded areas where militant factions, the Islamic State group and Syria's al-Qaida affiliate, operate or hold ground. ISIS constructed a warren of tunnels and an extensive trench line in anticipation of the fighting.

As for the Turks, capturing the northern part of the city cut the way in the face of the growing Kurdish influence in northern Syria, a red line drawn by Turkey.

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In a news conference following his party's board meeting on the upcoming constitutional referendum, Devlet Bahceli criticized Russian Federation for the bombing of Turkish troops in the Daesh-held town of Al-Bab in northern Syria.

He said: "I hope that isolation will be completed by the spring and then operations to liberate Raqqa itself can begin thereafter". Turkey's units entered central al-Bab, the operation is being conducted in coordination with Russian Federation.

Violence has also beset rebel- and opposition-held areas, including in Homs, where at least nine civilians were killed in suspected Russian or government airstrikes on Wednesday.

Russian and Turkish military jets have repeatedly jointly bombed Daesh targets near al-Bab in Syria.

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