Turkey on Wednesday claimed significant progress in the months-long battle to capture the Islamic State (IS) held Syrian town of Al-Bab, signaling it was looking to push to the jihadist stronghold of Raqa in the next stage of the operation.
Ankara launched an unprecedented incursion to support rebels inside Syria in August, making rapid advances in initial stages but has been locked in a bloody battle for Al-Bab since December.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Al-Bab was now "surrounded on all sides" and the town's outer neighborhoods were "under control."
"The efforts to take it completely under control continue," Yildirim added during a press conference in Ankara with the head of Libya's unity government Fayez al-Sarraj.
He confirmed two soldiers have been killed in the latest fighting, raising the death toll for Turkey's Syria campaign to at least 50 mostly from IS attacks.
Fighting raged on the ground near Al-Bab on Wednesday as Turkish troops and allied rebels forces clashed with IS fighters, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The monitor said both Turkish troops and allied rebels and Syrian regime forces had advanced towards IS-held Al-Bab overnight. Anadolu news agency said pro-Ankara forces had captured strategic hilltops from the jihadists.