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News > World

Turkish Army Enters Syria, Takes Border Town Jarablus from ISIS

  • A Turkish army tank and an armored vehicle are stationed near the Turkish-Syrian border in Karkamis in the Gaziantep province, Turkey, Aug. 23, 2016.

    A Turkish army tank and an armored vehicle are stationed near the Turkish-Syrian border in Karkamis in the Gaziantep province, Turkey, Aug. 23, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 24 August 2016

Turkish tanks rolled into Syria as rebels pushed the Islamic State group out of the border town amid condemnation from the Syrian government.

Syrian rebels backed by Turkish special forces, tanks and warplanes entered one of the Islamic State group's last strongholds on the Turkish-Syrian border Wednesday, in Turkey's first major U.S.-backed incursion into its neighbor.

Nationalists Cheer as Turkey Hits YPG and Islamic State Group

A column of at least nine Turkish tanks crossed into Syria with the group of largely Arab and Turkmen rebels to drive the Islamic State group out of Jarablus and surrounding villages. A Reuters reporter at the border witnessed intense bombardments, with palls of black smoke rising around the town.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the operation was targeting both the Islamic State and the Kurdish YPG militia, whose gains in northern Syria have alarmed Turkey.

Ankara views the YPG as an extension of Kurdish militants fighting an insurgency on its own soil, putting it at odds with Washington, which sees the group as its key ally in the fight against the Islamic State group.

"Whether it's Daesh (Islamic State group) or the YPG, they are all terrorist organizations," Erdogan said at a joint briefing in Ankara after meeting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

"A terrorist organization fighting another terrorist organization doesn't make it innocent," he said, adding that the Islamic State group had been forced out of Jarablus and that the town was now under control of the Syrian rebels.

Turkish artillery on Monday pounded Kurdish YPG militants on the border with Syria who are fighting Islamic State group forces in the north of Syria and have made a series of advances in recent months with the help of Turkey’s ally United States.

A History of the Turkish-Kurdish Conflict

Biden, who flew into Turkey, a key NATO ally with the alliance's second-biggest armed forces, on a pre-planned trip hours after the operation began, tried to soothe Turkish concerns about Kurdish territorial gains in Syria.

"No (Kurdish) corridor. Period. No separate entity on the Turkish border. A united Syria," he said at an earlier news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.

He added that that Washington had made clear to Kurdish militia fighters that they should return east of the Euphrates River again—a red line for Turkey—after helping to capture the city of Manbij south of Jarablus from Islamic State this month.

The offensive, dubbed "Euphrates Shield," is Turkey's first major military operation since a failed July 15 coup shook confidence in its ability to step up the fight against the Islamic State group. It comes four days after a suicide bomber suspected of links to the group killed 54 people at a wedding in the southeastern city of Gaziantep.

Syria's Foreign Ministry condemned the operation as a breach of its sovereignty and accused Ankara of launching the incursion to replace the Islamic State group with "other terrorist groups."

Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar Assad, said it was deeply worried by the escalation of tension after Turkey's move.

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