2016 Dabiq offensive
The 2016 Dabiq offensive was a military offensive and part of the third phase of Operation Euphrates Shield launched by the Turkish Armed Forces and factions from the Free Syrian Army (FSA, a Syrian rebel group) and allied groups, with the goal of capturing the town of Dabiq, north of Aleppo from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). It began in September and resulted in the capture of Dabiq by Turkish/FSA-allied forces on 16 October.
In anticipation of the offensive, ISIL reinforced Dabiq with 800 fighters. An ISIL defeat at Dabiq was seen as a potential ideological blow since it has a central place in ISIL's interpretation of Muslim theology. According to ISIL, a battle at Dabiq between Islamic and "infidel" Christian forces would herald the beginning of the apocalypse. The beginning of the Turkish military intervention in Syria also correlates to the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Marj Dabiq, when the Ottoman Empire led by Selim I entered northern Aleppo at Dabiq and conquered much of northern Syria.
On 28 September, the Turkish military stated that it destroyed an ISIL command post, a weapons dump and an ammunition depot in the Ihtemlat and Uwayshiyyah areas of Aleppo Governorate, while 82 targets were struck by shells. It also stated that the rebels recaptured the Al Eyyubiyah residential area of al-Rai, while ISIL temporarily recaptured the Tal-ar area, before rebel and Turkish forces once again seized it in addition to Ziadiyah.
Between 29 September and 2 October, the rebels captured seven more villages from ISIL and had started advancing on Dabiq, with troops from U.S. Special Forces reported to be among them. By this point, the rebel and Turkish force was some three kilometers from Dabiq.
On 3 October, advancing rebel forces ran into hundreds of landmines at the village of Turkman Bareh, on the way to Dabiq, leaving 15–21 rebels dead and another 29–35 wounded. Between 4 and 5 October, rebels captured Turkman Bareh and five more villages, including three to the east of Akhtarin. Meanwhile, Turkish fighter jets reportedly killed a regional ISIL commander in air-strikes near Akhtarin and al-Qubtan.
The town of Akhtarin was captured by the rebels on 6 October. An ISIL counter-attack two days later briefly recaptured the town, along with four other villages, including Turkman Bareh, before reportedly being repelled. According to the Turkish military, 38 ISIL militants were killed in clashes and airstrikes during 8 to 9 October.
Between 9 and 11 October, the rebels captured 17 villages from ISIL, bringing them within two and a half kilometers of Dabiq. 30 rebels and 20 ISIL fighters were killed during the fighting. However, a subsequent ISIL counter-attack on 11 October, recaptured two villages. The Turkish military reported it had destroyed 98 ISIL targets during the clashes. Meanwhile, activists and eyewitnesses reported that shelling carried out by the rebels and Turkish Army on ISIL-held Duwaybiq village resulted in the deaths of at least 10 civilians and wounded many others.
On 12 October, the rebels captured Duwaybiq and also retook a village they lost the previous day. Meanwhile, the Turkish military stated that 109 militants had been killed and 77 ISIL targets destroyed between 11 and 13 October, with 10 rebels also being killed and at least 22 wounded in the clashes.
On 15 October, the rebels captured three more villages, with Dabiq at this point being almost fully surrounded. The next day, both Dabiq, the nearby town of Sawran and seven other villages were seized by the rebels.
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