Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters resumed a major offensive inside the Daesh-held city of al-Bab on Thursday, a day after they broke through Daesh defences in its remaining stronghold in Aleppo province.
The advance into al-Bab threatens an important Daesh stronghold, whose fall would push the terror group further back from the Turkish border region, from which they launched rocket attacks into neighbouring towns in Turkey.
"The battles began a short while ago to complete what had been achieved yesterday," a commander of a leading Free Syrian Army (FSA) group fighting in al-Bab told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
The FSA has been gaining ground since the Turkish Armed Forces launched Operation Euphrates Shield to clear its border with Syria of threats in August 2016.
Five Turkish soldiers were reportedly killed and 10 were wounded in the clashes with Daesh on Thursday. Five Turkish soldiers were also killed in the same area on Wednesday as they helped Syrian opposition fighters capture the western gates of the city.
Opposition fighters also regained control of two key villages northeast of the city they had repeatedly been pushed out of in past fighting by a succession of suicide attacks.
The Turkish military said on Thursday they had killed 44 Daesh members in aerial and artillery strikes and clashes in northern Syria, adding to 58 killed a day earlier.
Potential clash with regime
Syrian regime forces have also advanced on al-Bab from the south, bringing them close to Turkish and opposition positions.
But Turkey has said international coordination was under way to prevent clashes with the Syrian forces.
On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey also has a detailed plan to drive Daesh out of its Raqqa stronghold in northern Syria.
Kalin said there had been better coordination with the US-led coalition on airstrikes in the last 10 days, and Ankara's priority was to establish a safe zone between the Syrian towns of Azaz and Jarablus.
The Turkish statement came the day after President Erdogan and US President Donald Trump agreed to cooperate more closely on fighting Daesh and terror in the region.