Turkey's president has claimed that the ultimate goal of the country's incursion into Syria is to "cleanse" a border region, including the cities of al-Bab and Raqqah, of the ISIS Takfiri terrorists.
(AhlulBayt News Agency) - Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a news conference in the city of Istanbul on Sunday that the "ultimate goal is to cleanse a 5,000-square-km area.
Erdogan said the capture of al-Bab by Turkish troops and their allied anti-Damascus militants was now a "matter of time," adding, "Al-Bab is now besieged from all fronts... Our forces entered the center.
In late August 2016, the Turkish military began a campaign inside Syria, claiming to clear its border of Daesh (ISIS) and stop the advance of Kurdish fighters. Ankara is already under fire for supporting militants operating against the Syrian government.
Elsewhere in his remarks, President Erdogan said Turkish forces had no intention of staying in Syria.
The Turkish president promised that the forces would leave Syria once the region had been cleared of both Daesh terrorists and fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), whom Ankara sees as a hostile force.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said Turkish troops and the allied militants entered the western flank of al-Bab on Saturday, taking control of several suburbs after heavy clashes with terrorists.
One Turkish soldier was killed and another injured during the push to enter the city.
The city, located in Syria's northern province of Aleppo, has been under siege by Turkish fighters from the west, east and north and Syrian government forces from the south.
According to the report by the SOHR, Turkish forces have advanced into the city from the west in recent days, and now control around 10 percent of the city and all of its western suburbs.
The advance on al-Bab risks putting Turkish troops in direct conflict with Syrian government forces, who are closing in on the city from the south.
The government in Ankara argues that recent terrorist attacks in Turkey, including a New Year's Day shooting in an Istanbul nightclub that killed 39 people, had been masterminded in the Daesh-held cities of al-Bab and Raqqah.