Karkamis (Turkey): Turkey sent more tanks into Syria and sternly warned a Kurdish militia to withdraw from frontline positions, a day after pro-Ankara Syrian opposition fighters captured a key border town from jihadists.
The tanks joined those which crossed the frontier yesterday in the so-called Operation Euphrates Shield, which Turkey says aims at ridding the northern Syrian border area of both Islamic State (IS) extremists and Kurdish militia.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that the offensive had expelled IS from the Syrian town of Jarabulus, and pro-Ankara rebels reported the jihadists had retreated south to the town of Al-Bab.
But Defence Minister Fikri Isik warned the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia — who also had designs on Jarabulus — to move back east across the Euphrates or also face intervention from Turkey.
The new contingent of tanks roared across a dirt road west of the Turkish border town of Karkamis, throwing up a cloud of dust in their wake before crossing the border, an AFP photographer said.
They were then followed by around 10 armoured vehicles.
The operation, the most ambitious launched by Turkey during the five-and-a-half-year Syria conflict, has seen Turkish special forces deployed on the ground and jet fighters striking IS targets.
They are supporting a ground offensive by hundreds of Syrian rebels who on Wednesday marched into Jarabulus and a neighbouring village after meeting little resistance.
It was not immediately clear if the deployment of the new tanks on Thursday was aimed at securing Jarabulus or helping the rebels move into new territory.
But a Turkish official said on Wednesday that Ankara would “continue operations until we are convinced that imminent threats against the country’s national security have been neutralised.”
The well-connected columnist of the Hurriyet daily, Abdulkadir Selvi, said the aims of the operation included creating a security zone free of “terror groups” and limiting the advances of Kurdish militia.
He said 450 members of the Turkish military had been on the ground on the first day of the offensive but this number could rise to 15,000.
The Hurriyet daily, citing military sources, said 100 IS militants had been killed in the offensive. It is not possible to independently verify the toll.
State-run news agency Anadolu said one rebel fighter was killed but the Turkish armed forces sustained no losses.