More Turkish tanks enter Syria in push
against Islamic State, Kurdish militia
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[August 25, 2016]
By Humeyra Pamuk and Umit Bektas
KARKAMIS, Turkey (Reuters) - At least nine
more Turkish tanks entered northern Syria on Thursday as part of an
operation aimed at driving Islamic State out of the border area around
Jarablus and stopping Kurdish militia fighters from seizing territory,
Reuters witnesses said.
A senior Turkish official said there were now more than 20 Turkish tanks
inside Syria and that additional tanks and construction machinery would
be sent in as required.
"We need construction machinery to open up roads ... and we may need
more in the days ahead. We also have armored personnel carriers that
could be used on the Syrian side. We may put them into service as
needed," the official said.
The deployments are part of "Operation Euphrates Shield", in which
Syrian rebels backed by Turkish special forces, tanks and warplanes on
Wednesday entered Jarablus, one of Islamic State's last strongholds on
the Turkish-Syrian border. It is Turkey's first major U.S.-backed
incursion into its southern neighbor.
The sound of gunfire, audible from a hill on the Turkish side of the
border overlooking Jarablus, rang out early on Thursday and a plume of
black smoke rose over the town.
President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Islamic State had been
driven out of the town and it was now controlled by the Syrian rebels,
who are largely Arab and Turkmen. He said the operation was targeting
both 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 who have
fought a three-decade insurgency on its own soil, putting it at odds
with Washington, which sees the group as an ally in the fight against
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Turkish army tanks drive towards to the border in Karkamis on the
Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern Gaziantep province,
Turkey, August 25, 2016. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Turkish Foreign Minister
Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday that YPG fighters were retreating to
the east of the Euphrates river, a red line for Turkey, foreign
ministry sources in Ankara said.
In a telephone call, the two emphasized that the fight against
Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq would continue together, the
Speaking during a visit on Wednesday to Turkey, a key NATO ally with
the alliance's second-biggest armed forces, U.S. Vice President Joe
Biden also tried to soothe Turkish concerns about Kurdish
territorial gains in Syria.
He said there should be no separate Kurdish entity in northern Syria
and the country should remain united. Kurdish militia fighters would
not receive U.S. support if they failed to pull back east of the
Euphrates as promised, he said.
(Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun in Ankara; Writing by Nick
Tattersall; Editing by Edmund Blair and David Dolan)
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