Turkey sends tanks, forces into Syria to free Jarablus from Islamic State

After a pre-dawn barrage of heavy artillery and airstrikes, Turkey sent tanks and special forces into Syria on Wednesday to help clear a border town of Islamic State militants in Ankara’s most significant military involvement so far in the Syria conflict.
Syrian opposition fighters were also part of the cross-border incursion, which was reported by both Turkish state media and Syrian opposition activists. Turkey said its intention was to clear the town of Jarablus, located right across the border from Turkey, from IS militants. But Turkey 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.
Wednesday’s operation puts Turkey on track for a confrontation with the Kurdish fighters in Syria, where the civil war is now in its sixth year. A senior official with Syria’s largest Kurdish group suggested Turkey will pay the price. Saleh Muslim, the co-president of the Democratic Union Party or PYD, tweeted that “Turkey is in Syrian Quagmire. Will be defeated as Daesh” will be. He use the Arabic language acronym for IS.
The state-run Anadolu Agency, citing unnamed military officials, said tanks crossed into Syria but didn’t provide details. The private NTV television said as many as 20 tanks crossed the border and that clashes were underway. Earlier Wednesday, NTV said a small number of Turkish special forces had crossed into Syria as part of the operation.
NTV described it as an “intruder mission” meant to carry out “pinpoint operations” against IS to clear Jarablus of the extremists. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s office said the operation, carried out by Turkish and US-backed coalition forces, began at 4am (0100 GMT), with Turkish artillery launching intense cross-border fire on Jarablus, followed by Turkish warplanes bombing IS targets in the town, Anadolu said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition activist group that monitors the civil war, said Syrian rebels who were amassed at the Turkish border crossed into Syria, preceded by Turkish tanks and mine sweepers. The Britain-based group didn’t say how many fighters were involved.

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