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The New Arab

Turkey-backed rebels clash with Kurds over Syria's al-Bab

Both groups seek to expand their own territory in the border area [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 22 November, 2016

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Ankara-backed Syrian rebels on Monday clashed with US-backed SDF fighters over the city of al-Bab in the Aleppo province, as both groups seek to expand their ground.
Syrian rebels backed by Turkish forces fighting to drive Islamic State [IS] militants from the militant group's stronghold of al-Bab in Aleppo province clashed on Monday with US-backed Kurdish forces.

The rebels – who pressed on in Ankara's Operation Euphrates Shield to clear the border areas from the militants – said fighting with the Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF] erupted in the village of Sheikh Nasser.

The Turkey-backed rebels pushed back the coalition of Kurdish and Arab tribal fighters headed by the Syrian Kurdish YPG milita.

"We clashed with Kurdish YPG and we took over the village," Reuters reported Abu Assad Dabeq, a commander in the operation as saying.

"The YPG are trying to advance to the areas we are advancing to," Dabeq said, adding that his fighters were only a few kilometres away from al-Bab.

"They are competing with us to reach al Bab. They are working on cutting all roads either either from Aleppo or in the direction of al Bab," Dabeq added.

Both groups seek to dislodge IS militants from the area to expand their own territory.

Al-Bab, a city of 100,000 about 30 kilometres [20 miles] from the Turkish border, has been a key target for Turkey and its Syrian rebel allies since its campaign began on August 24.

Ankara launched its unprecedented cross-border operation saying it was targeting both IS and the YPG militia, which has been a key opponent of the militant group in Syria.

Ankara, wary of growing self-autonomy for Kurdish communities in Syria having a knock-on effect back home is keen to seize the city and prevent YPG and other Kurdish forces from joining up cantons they control along the Turkish border, fearing it will stoke Kurdish separatism at home.

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