A Syrian opposition fighter guards the market area in downtown Al-Bab.
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A newly paved road links the Turkish town of Elbeyli to its Syrian sister, Al-Bab, across the border.Turkey is growing long-term roots in its northern Syrian enclave, nearly two years after its troops moved in, modeling the zone on its own towns and bringing in its own administrators and military, financial and security institutions.Almost a quarter of Syria's population is under Turkish control indirectly or directly – including 3.6 million refugees in Turkey, around 600,000 people living in the enclave, most of them displaced from elsewhere in Syria, and the 2 million people in Idlib, the last remaining rebel-held province, where Turkey has gained a major say.It took more than three months of fighting for the Turkish-led forces to take Al-Bab district, killing more than 70 Turkish soldiers.In Al-Bab, it trained some 2,000 Syrian security personnel, including 100 women, to police checkpoints in Al-Bab.Turkish officials estimate that now up to 60,000 Syrian gunmen operate in the Turkish zone, with nowhere else to go and no other supporter but Turkey.
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