Turkish Special Forces Enter Syrian Territory ‘to Fight Daesh’
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Turkey's military, backed by US-led coalition forces on Wednesday entered Syrian territory, allegedly to launch an operation to clear a Syrian border town from Daesh (ISIL) terrorists.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency said the operation, which started hours after Turkey indicated it would step up its engagement in Syria, began at 4 am on Wednesday with Turkish artillery launching intense fire on Jarablus from the Turkish town of Karkamis, followed by Turkish warplanes bombing Daesh targets in the town, the Associated Press reported citing local media.
Haber Turk television and Hurriyet newspaper, citing unnamed military sources, said a ground offensive has not started. Hurriyet said efforts were underway to open a "passage" into the region. It quoted the sources as saying Turkish Howitzers and rocket launchers had fired 224 rounds at 63 targets within an hour and 45 minutes, and that the Turkish air raids started just after 6 a.m.
The Anadolu Agency claimed the operation aims to clear Turkey's border of "terror organizations" and increase border security. It said the aim also is to "prioritize and support" Syria's territorial integrity, prevent a new refugee wave and provide humanitarian aid in the region.
The operation was launched hours before US Vice President Joe Biden was due in Ankara for talks that include developments in Syria.
The Turkish prime minister's office said a border area in Turkey had been declared a “special security zone,” and asked journalists not to try access it, citing safety concerns and threats posed by Daesh.
On Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlet Cavusolgu pledged "every kind" of support for operations against Daesh along a 100-kilometer (62-mile) stretch of Syrian frontier, putting the NATO member on track for a confrontation with US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria.
"It is important that the terror organizations are cleansed from the region," Cavusolgu said in a joint news conference with his Hungarian counterpart.
Jarablus, which lies on the western bank of the Euphrates River where it crosses from Turkey into Syria, is one of the last important Daesh-held towns standing between Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Syria.
Located 20 miles (33 kilometers) from the town of Manbij, which was liberated from Daesh by Kurdish-led forces earlier this month, taking control of Jarablus and the Daesh-held town of al-Bab to the south would be a significant step toward linking up border areas under Kurdish control east and west of the Euphrates River.
Turkey had increased security measures on its border with Syria, deploying tanks and armored personnel carriers in recent days. On Tuesday, residents of the Turkish town of Karkamis, across the border from Jarablus, were told to evacuate after mortars believed to be fired by Daesh militants landed there.
Ankara is also concerned about the growing power of US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces, who it says are linked to Kurdish groups waging an insurgency in southeastern Turkey.