WW3 RED ALERT: On the ground, Operation ‘Euphrates Shield’ kicks into high gear for Turkey on Israel’s northern border
Turkey has sent its military en masse into Syria. The goal: Destroy ISIS. “God willing, we will get a result in a short time.”
Turkey’s army backed by international coalition air strikes on Wednesday launched an operation involving fighter jets and tanks to drive Islamic State jihadists out of a key Syrian border town.
The air and ground operation, the most ambitious launched by Turkey in the Syria conflict, is aimed at clearing jihadists from the town of Jarabulus, which lies directly opposite the Turkish town of Karkamis, the prime minister’s office said.
The operation — named “Euphrates Shield” — began around 4:00 am local time (0100 GMT) with Turkish artillery pounding dozens of IS targets around Jarabulus.
Turkish F-16 fighter jets and coalition war planes also hit targets inside Syria while an AFP photographer then saw around a dozen Turkish tanks cross into Syria to support the operation.
Tensions had flared across the Syria-Turkey border the previous day following rocket fire from Jarabulus which landed inside Turkey, with the Turkish army firing howitzer rounds in response.
The operation also appeared aimed at pre-empting any assault on Jarabulus by pro-Kurdish militias, who also oppose IS but are accused by Turkey of seeking to carve out a Kurdish region in northern Syria.
“God willing, we will get a result in a short time” to kick IS out of Jarabulus, Interior Minister Efkan Ala told the state-run Anadolu news agency, saying Turkey was working with coalition partners and moderate Syrian opposition.
Turkish authorities had late Tuesday ordered the evacuation of Karkamis for safety reasons, raising expectations that an offensive was imminent.
‘Tanks head to border’
The AFP photographer in Karkamis saw 11 Turkish tanks crossing the frontier
and then firing on Jarabulus.
They were followed by several smaller military vehicles believed to be carrying pro-Ankara Syrian rebels who had also crossed over.
Syrian activists have said hundreds of pro-Ankara rebel forces are waiting on the Turkish side of the border to take part in a ground operation to seize Jarabulus from the jihadists.
Air strikes by Turkish jets also echoed through the skies. The effects of one air strike on the northern outskirts Jarabulus were easily visible, sending up a cloud of black smoke and sand.
Turkey will want to show with the operation that it is serious about taking on IS, which has been blamed for a string of attacks inside the country, the latest a weekend attack on a Kurdish wedding in Gaziantep that left 54 dead.
Ankara was long accused of turning a blind eye to the rise of IS in Syria and even aiding its movements to-and-fro across the border, claims the government had always vehemently denied.
The launch of the operation comes as US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Ankara to meet Turkish President Recep
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