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Turkey ups role in ISIS battles

| Monday, Nov. 14, 2016, 8:48 p.m.

Turkish warplanes on Monday struck Islamic State positions in and near the northern Syrian town of al-Bab while Ankara-backed Syrian opposition fighters inched closer to the town, one of the extremist group's largest remaining strongholds in the country, Turkish state media and Syrian activists said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group that tracks Syria's civil war, now in its sixth year, said the airstrikes and the shelling killed three people and wounded 30 others.

The stepped-up campaign by Turkey comes after Ankara first sent ground forces into northern Syria during the summer, vowing to clear the border area both of the Islamic State group and the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces, which it views as an extension of the Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.

Since, Turkish troops and opposition fighters allied with them have captured wide areas along the border with Turkey, cutting ISIS fighters off in their self-declared caliphate from the rest of the world. They have also captured dozens of towns and villages in northern Syria.

Also, the Aleppo Media Center, an activist collective, said Turkey-backed opposition fighters captured three villages on Monday northwest of al-Bab and another village northeast of the town. The Observatory confirmed that four villages near al-Bab were taken, adding that the Turkey-backed fighters have captured 29 villages in the al-Bab area over the past week.

Also Monday, Syrian regime warplanes struck the last functioning hospital in the town of Atareb in northern Syria, wounding some staff and knocking it out of service, according to the Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees, another activist group.

The Russian military, meanwhile, accused militants in Syria of having used chemical weapons against Syrian government troops in the city of Aleppo.

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