Turkish special forces have entered Syrian territory.
Turkey has launched a ground incursion into Syria targeting ISIS and Kurdish fighters near the Syrian city of Jarablus close to the Turkish border
The operation, called Euphrates Shield, is supported by Turkish air forces, as well as warplanes from the US-led coalition.
The offensive began hours before the US vice president Joe Biden, arrived in Turkey, the most senior US official to visit the country since an attempted coup last month.
Press TV reports:
Turkish officials said anonymously that units of special forces entered Syria through the Turkish border after firing artillery rounds into the Syrian city of Jarablus, in the northern province of Aleppo and some 398 kilometers (248 miles) northeast of the capital, Damascus, at around 4 a.m. local time (0100 GMT) on Wednesday.
The Turkish air force and aircraft from a US-led military coalition have pounded targets in and around the Syrian city.
The Turkish officials said the special forces are in Syrian territory to open a passage for Turkish ground forces for a larger-scale incursion into Jarablus.
They asserted that the operation is aimed at “clearing Turkish borders of terrorist groups, helping to enhance border security and supporting the territorial integrity of Syria.”
The officials further said that the prevention of a new flow of refugees and facilitating the distribution of basic commodities among the region’s civilian population were also among the goals of the operation.
Meanwhile, reports say Turkish tanks have entered Syrian territory to conduct operations in Jarablus.
With Syrian interests in mind
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan later on Wednesday announced the beginning of the military operation against Daesh in Jarablus.
“At 4:00 this morning, operations started in the north of Syria against terror groups which constantly threaten our country, like Daesh and the PYD,” he said in a speech in Ankara.
The Democratic Union Party, or PYD, is a Kurdish group based in Syria. Ankara considers it a “terrorist group.”
In rare remarks, Erdogan said Turkey “only ever sought to help the people of Syria” and that no other intentions were involved. He seemed to contradict himself, though, when he said Turkey also wanted to put an end to the frequent attacks on the Turkish border.
Observers believe Turkey is more concerned about Kurdish forces inside Syria. The Kurdish population in the region has long been seeking to establish an independent country by potentially taking territory from Turkey, Syria, Iraq and even Iran.
However, the Ankara government has recently been speaking somewhat more softly about the Syrian government, which it has long opposed.
On Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu vowed that Ankara would give “all kinds of support” to efforts to free Jarablus from the grip of Daesh terrorists. “We do not want Daesh to exist in Iraq and Syria,” he told reporters.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus also said recently that Turkey saw Jarablus “as a national security matter.”
“What we have said, since the beginning, is that having Jarablus or any other city held by Daesh is unacceptable,” he said.
Earlier, Turkish officials said projectiles fired from Jarablus hit downtown Karkamis, a city in southeast Turkey.
On Tuesday, authorities in the southeastern Turkish town of Karkamis asked locals to evacuate the town and nearby areas for safety reasons. There were no reports of casualties, though.
The Turkish military retaliated against both attacks with counterattacks on Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) positions and purported Daesh targets inside Syria.