Turkey says it will not hand over al-Bab to the Syrian regime after it drives Daesh out of the northern Syrian town. Turkish-backed opposition forces are on the outskirts of the town as regime forces make inroads in the region.

A rebel fighter stands near a hole in the wall as he carries his weapon on the outskirts of al-Bab in Syria, January 22, 2017.
A rebel fighter stands near a hole in the wall as he carries his weapon on the outskirts of al-Bab in Syria, January 22, 2017.

Syrian regime forces pushed Daesh out of several villages northeast of Aleppo in the last 48 hours, a body monitoring the conflict said on Wednesday. The advances by the regime forces bring them closer to positions held by Turkish-backed rebels.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdulrahman said the recent push by the regime signalled a race between Assad forces and the opposition to recapture al-Bab in Syria's northeast. Both sides are battling Daesh, which holds al-Bab.

Turkey's military on Thursday said it killed 23 Daesh militants in northern Syria in its latest air strikes.

Turkey on Tuesday said forces it backed in the struggle against Daesh had reached the outskirts of the strategic northern Syrian town.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said Turkey and its allies would not hand over al-Bab to the regime after driving out Daesh.

"Al-Bab belongs to the people of al-Bab. Operation Euphrates Shield is not an operation that aims to clear the area and then hand it over to the regime," said Kurtulmus.

Turkey launched Euphrates Shield in August 2016 to secure its borders with Syria and drive terrorist groups from the area.

Turkey is supporting the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Syria. It has criticised the US for backing the PYD, which Ankara considers an extension of the PKK, listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and EU.

Ankara has repeatedly criticised US-led coalition forces for failing to provide adequate air support against Daesh in Syria. Officials have said Turkey hopes the Trump administration will not "make the same mistakes Obama did."

US President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that his administration "will absolutely do safe zones in Syria" for refugees fleeing violence in the war-torn country.

Turkey has long advocated the need for a no-fly zone in Syria on its border with Turkey. It greeted Trump's call with a note of caution.

"We have seen the US president's request for conducting a study. What's important is the results of this study and what kind of recommendation will come out," Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu​ said.

TRT World 's Kilmeny Duchardt in Gaziantep has details about the US announcement.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies