Daish group is “completely besieged” in its last major stronghold in Syria’s Aleppo province, a monitor said on Monday, as Russia, Turkey, Iran and the United Nations started a technical meeting in Astana to discuss the implementation of the Syrian ceasefire agreement, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry said.
Daish rebels were cut off in Al Bab after forces loyal to the government of President Bashar Al Assad severed a road into the northern town, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
“Al Bab is now completely besieged by the government from the south, and the Turkish forces and rebels from the east, north and west,” said the Britain-based monitor.
It came after “the Syrian forces and allied militia seized the only and last main road used by the radicals between Al Bab and Raqa,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said, referring to the radicals’ de facto capital in Syria.
Syrian forces were backed by fighters from Hezbollah and by Russian artillery, said the Observatory, which relies on a network of sources on the ground for its reports.
In less than three weeks, Syrian army units moved to within 5km of Al Bab, as Damascus seeks to stop its neighbour, Turkey, penetrating deeper into a strategic area of northern Syria.
Northern Syria is one of the most complicated battlefields of the multi-sided Syrian war, with Daish now being fought there by the Syrian army, Turkey and its rebel allies, and an alliance of US-backed Syrian militias.
The town of Al Bab, 25 kilometres south of the border with Turkey, is seen as a prize by nearly all sides in the complex war.
Since December, Turkey-backed rebel fighters known as the Euphrates Shield alliance have edged towards Al Bab from the north.
“Representatives of Jordan are expected to take part for the first time” in the Astana talks, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
He said the agenda included reviewing the implementation of the cessation of hostilities, discussing a proposal from the Syrian armed opposition about the ceasefire, and determining options about how to implement it.
“This is about creating a mechanism to control the implementation of the ceasefire,” the ministry spokesman said. The ministry gave no information about the line-up of the delegations.