Turkish forces barely regrouped, far from announced partial withdrawal – Iraqi defense spokesman
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Iraqi Defense Minister Expects Ramadi Victory within 2 Weeks
Iraq’s defense minister predicted Saturday that national security forces would retake full control of the city of Ramadi by the end of the year.
“I met with the Joint Operations Command and they confirmed to me that we will regain all of the city of Ramadi by the end of this month,” Khaled al-Obeidi told reporters in Baghdad.
Earlier this month, forces led by Iraq’s elite counter-terrorism service retook Al-Tameem, a southwestern neighborhood of Ramadi from the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL) takfiri group.
The offensive in Al-Tameem this month marked a significant step in long-delayed efforts to recapture the city, around 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Baghdad and capital of the vast province of Anbar.
“The reason the battle took so long was to avoid casualties among our forces and also to avoid civilian casualties,” Obeidi said. “There are still many civilians in the city.”
Terrorists still holed up in the city centre and using tunnels to avoid air strikes may number no more than 300, according to military officials.
ISIL fighters attacking from northwest of Ramadi with suicide car bombs attempted to retake control of the key Palestine bridge in recent days but Iraqi forces still have the upper hand.
“The city of Ramadi has now been fully isolated, and the Iraqi security forces are beginning to conduct their clearing operations,” the US-led coalition’s Baghdad-based spokesman, Colonel Steve Warren, told reporters on Friday.
He said that ISIL had been using the Euphrates river that runs through Ramadi to supply its gunmen inside the city with men and military equipment.
Control of both sides of the river banks in key areas have significantly reduced the takfiri organization’s ability to re-supply, Warren said.
Breaking: Syrian Army captures the northern farms of Marj Al-Sultan in rural Damascus
On Wednesday evening, the Syrian Arab Army’s 102nd Brigade and the 416th Regiment of the Republican Guard – in coordination with the National Defense Forces (NDF) of Damascus City – imposed full control over the farms that located to the north of the Marj Al-Sultan Military Airport after a violent battle with the Islamist rebels of Jabhat Al-Nusra (Syrian Al-Qaeda group) and Jaysh Al-Islam (Army of Islam).
According to a battlefield journalist in Damascus City, the Syrian Arab Army’s Republican Guard forces have reversed the Islamist rebel gains near the Marj Al-Sultan Military Airport and advanced north towards the city of Harasta in the East Ghouta region of Damascus City.
Currently, intense clashes are still ongoing between the Islamist rebels and the Syrian Armed Forces near the P-35 Radar Base; however, it appears that Jabhat Al-Nusra and Jaysh Al-Islam are holding on for dear life, as the pro-government forces continue to advance through this rough terrain in rural Damascus.
Earlier this week, Jabhat Al-Nusra and Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham attempted to launch a large-scale offensive to retake the Marj Al-Sultan Military Airport, but they were quickly repelled by the Syrian Armed Forces after a short battle that ended with the Islamst rebels retreating; this attack left several Islamist combatants dead.
Syrian Army advances north towards Aleppo City while Hezbollah pushes south to the Idlib Governorate
The Syrian Arab Army’s 4th Mechanized Division has recently shifted their attention to the provincial capital of the Aleppo Governorate after spending the last two months fighting alongside Hezbollah and Harakat Al-Nujaba (Iraqi paramilitary) to cutoff the imperative Islamist rebel supply route from the Idlib Governorate.
Following the capture of Khan Touman, Hezbollah and the Syrian Armed Forces split apart, with the former advancing south of the strategic Aleppo-Damascus Highway (M-5 Highway) while the latter pushed north towards the large towns of Al-Rashideen and Khan Al-‘Assal that border the southern sector of the provincial capital.
With Hezbollah and Harakat Al-Nujaba pressuring the Islamist rebels of Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham, Harakat Nouriddeen Al-Zinki, and Jabhat Al-Nusra (Syrian Al-Qaeda group) along the Aleppo-Damascus Highway, the Syrian Arab Army’s 43rd and 154th Brigades of the 4th Mechanized Division diverted their attention Al-Rashiddeen, where they successfully cutoff all supply routes to the town on Wednesday.
Khan Al-‘Assal and Al-Rashiddeen are situated just north of the recently captured town of Khan Touman and just south of the Al-‘Amariyah District of the provincial capital.
Two years ago, the Islamist rebels from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) executed several Syrian Arab Army soldiers inside of Khan Al-‘Assal, marking one of the largest mass executions of the war.