The Islamic State terror group is defending the village of Dabiq in northern Syria as U.S.-backed Syrian rebels launch attacks, seeking to liberate the village that IS believes will be the center of an apocalyptic battle between Christians and Islamists.
“If matters proceed as planned, within 48 hours we will be in Dabiq,” Ahmed Osman, commander of the Sultan Murad Free Syrian Army, told Reuters on Monday.
The Independent reports that at least 15 Turkish and Syrian rebels have been killed in the fighting near Dabiq, but a much fiercer battle is expected to take place for the village which is in the center of IS’ propaganda operation.
The Islamic militants believe that Dabiq, which they first captured in August 2014, will be the host of a major battle between Islamic and Christian forces that will signal the beginning of the apocalypse.
ARA News added that U.S.-led coalition warplanes have been aiding the Syrian rebels with airstrikes, killing and wounding over 20 of the militants.
IS has been losing its grip on a number of towns across Iraq and Syria, with additional reports that Turkey-backed rebels have captured areas in the northern countryside of Aleppo.
“Backed by an air cover from the coalition, rebel fighters of the Euphrates Shield expelled ISIS from the eastern suburb of Maree town,” rebel spokesman Salih al-Zein said.
“The rebels have also captured the Akhtarin village after heavy clashes with ISIS,” he added.
Besides being the center of an apocalyptic final battle that IS predicts, Dabiq also lends its name to the monthly stylized propaganda magazine that IS publishes, which explains its ideology and celebrates terror attacks that have been carried out around the world.
Osman added that IS officials have sent close to 800 additional fighters to defend the village from advancing FSA rebels, but the terror group has been unable to stop several other villages near Dabiq from being recaptured.
Rebel and U.S.-backed forces are also preparing to attack and recapture two other IS strongholds, namely Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, which would also be a massive blow to the terror group’s ambitions.
The apocalyptic beliefs of IS have been explored by a number of counter-terrorism experts, including Sebastian Gorka, author of The New York Times best-selling book Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War and chair of military theory at the Marine Corps University.
Gorka said at the first annual The Bridge conference for the persecuted church hosted by International Christian Concern in July that an English-language translation of IS’ former name was the ‘Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham,’ with the latter part of the name bearing the most significance.
“Like every religion, Islam has an eschatology. It has a story of the End Times. Just as in Christian eschatology, the talks of a final period of tribulation or judgment day and a series of battles between the believers and non-believers, Islam has the same,” Gorka said, according to The Christian Post
“Everybody will be resurrected and judged by Allah at the End Times. But prior to that judgment, there will be a series of battles in al-Sham. The pivotal jihad, the last jihad will occur in this territory.”