Turkish and moderate Syrian opposition forces last night closed northern Syria’s Jarabulus gap in a significant development in the counter- Islamic State of Iraq and The Levant campaign by cutting off ISIL access to a route between Manbij and Jarabulus, Defense Department Press Operations Director Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters today.
The Jarabulus gap is about a 12-kilometer strip in Syria between Jarabulus on its east and Al Rai on its west, where Turkish and moderate Syrians moved Sept. 1 along that border, Davis said.
Turkish forces supported moderate Syrian opposition forces in the region to retake Jarabulus from ISIL control, he said.
“As of this moment, [ISIL] no longer controls any territory along the border,” Davis said.
Gap Clearance Critical
Clearing the gap was critical to stop the flow of enemy foreign fighters coming into Syria and onward to Iraq and to stop ISIL from exploiting the border to export terrorism out of Syria, Davis said.
“[Jarabulus gap] is a very porous border, but any place where ISIL has direct contact with that border only increases [its] ability to get people across,” he noted.
“Whether it’s foreign fighters coming in or terrorists going out, this will have a very significant impact and it’s a very important strategic development in our overall campaign to degrade and defeat [ISIL],” Davis said.
In addition to Turkish and moderate forces on the ground clearing the border area, Syrian Democratic Forces are working to clear Manbij, and they’ve moved back east across the Euphrates and are positioning themselves to move south toward Raqqa, Davis noted.
“ISIL is on the run,” he said.
The high-mobility artillery rocket system in Turkey made its first strike over the weekend, Davis added.
“The HIMARS capability is in use in Iraq and other places on the battlefield,” he said. “It is long range, very precise, [and] is another tool in the commander’s toolkit to be able to strike,” he said, adding that the ISIL target was a trapezoid between Jarabulus, Al Rai, Al-Bab and Manbij.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)