Syria: IS overpowered by bitter fighting on two battlefronts
International airstrikes, coupled with heavy artillery, have struck IS positions in the towns of al-Bab and Raqqa, as ground troops become engaged in heavy fighting.
Turkish airstrikes killed 30 civilians in al-Bab on Wednesday and 29 more on Thursday as part of a joint assault by Syrian rebels and the Turkish army to take the city from IS.
Turkish forces, as part of Operation Euphrates Shield, launched missile strikes to hit IS positions in the town's west, before deploying tanks and other heavy artillery to push fighters back.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 29 civilians had died on Thursday, including eight children. They also reported the deaths of 42 Euphrates Shield soldiers in the attack on Wednesday.
IS' propaganda channel, Amaq, announced on Thursday that Turkish airstrikes had killed around 30 people, mostly civilians.
A rebel commander, Abu al-Walid al-Izzi, told The New Arab that the battle for the city centred on the southwestern entrance, particularly in the neighbourhood surrounding the city hospital.
IS suicide bombers killed 14 Turkish soldiers on Wednesday and five more on Thursday, also destroying a number of Turkish vehicles.
|A map of Syria - click to expand [Source: TNA]|
Kurdish forces said they had captured a hundred villages to the west of Raqqa from Islamic State control on Thursday.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an umbrella group of anti-Salafi militias in the north of Syria, changed direction in their assault on Raqqa, after facing stiff resistance from the north.
Operating under Operation Euphrates Wrath, a separate mission to the battle for al-Bab, the SDF are approaching the town of al-Tabaqa, located near an important dam and air-field.
Backed by international coalition airstrikes, the SDF are aiming to isolate the city and cut logistics routes, ahead of a siege that is expected to begin in 2017.