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End goal of Turkey in Syria is Raqqa: Tayyip Erdogan

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Russian 'friendly fire' kills 3 Turkish soldiers in Syria

Syrian government forces and allied militia have also made gains south of al-Bab, near the town of Tadef, since Friday, reaching an area 1.5 km from the city, it said.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday before flying to Bahrain that IS fighters have begun deserting al-Bab, which has been under attack for weeks.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said earlier this week that clashes with Syrian forces had been avoided thanks to global coordination, including that between Turkey and Russian Federation.

The town has been besieged since Monday, when government forces advancing from the south cut off a road leading into Al-Bab.

The Turkish military said Turkey and Russian Federation were conducting a joint investigation into the bombing. Rebels, for their part, struck at government positions in central Hama province, though they have been mostly occupied by infighting in Idlib that calls into question the direction of their insurrection.

There was no immediate comment from Damascus on the reported clashes.

Western-backed Syrian forces should isolate Islamic State's de facto capital in Syria "by the spring" before an offensive on the city itself, British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said on Saturday.

"In the following period, toward the east, there are Manbij and Raqqa", Erdogan said of Turkey's next targets.

Syrian government troops and allied militias, as well Turkish troops, the U.S-led worldwide coalition and Russian Federation have been going after IS in different parts of the country.

Erdogan reiterated that Turkey does not have any plans to stay in Syria after Daesh is wiped out, saying Turkey's only goal is to "clear this region of terrorism".

Al-Bab has been under IS control since 2014, when the group seized large swathes of territory in Syria and neighbouring Iraq, proclaiming its self-described caliphate.

"The agreement between Russian Federation and Turkey, in August 2016, joined by the Iranians, came at the expense of Kurdish interests", says Balanche.

But it remains unclear whether the Assad regime, which has not been comfortable with the Turkish incursion into Syria, will want the Turks and their allies to drive on to Raqqa.

The push has lately focused on the IS-held town of al-Bab, northeast of Aleppo.

One Turkish soldier was killed and another injured during the push to enter the city. What made Russian Federation most angry is the Turkish proposal of launching the operation against Raqqa jointly with the USA, according to Yilmaz.

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