Turkish tanks and other armored vehicles have entered Syria’s northern province of Aleppo and shelled Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) positions in the area, opening up yet another battlefront within the last two weeks, various media outlets reported.
Turkey sent tanks into the town of al-Rai, located in Aleppo Province as part of its Euphrates Shield operation aimed at pushing both IS and Kurdish militants away from the border, Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News reported Saturday.
Turkish vehicles opened fire on IS installations located in the region, according to the country’s Dogan news agency.
“The operations are to work from al-Rai towards the villages that were liberated west of Jarablus,” Colonel Ahmed Osman of the Sultan Murad rebel group told Reuters, confirming that the operation is taking place in cooperation with Turkey.
Leopard tanks and M60T tanks are involved into the offensive, broadcaster CNN-Turk reported. The machinery is backed by artillery. About 20 tanks, five armored personnel carriers and other vehicles are reported to have entered the area.
Civilians have fled the territory as the Turkish forces advanced.
The offensive is aimed at targeting jihadists from both the east and west sides of the stretch of territory between Jarablus and al-Rai which is presently under militant control.
IS militants reportedly responded with three rockets that hit the Turkish province of Kilis earlier today, Dogan also said.
The new front line was launched some 25 kilometers west of the first one, which was opened on August 24.
Turkey has stressed that it has no intentions of staying in Syria and the operation is strictly defensive in character.
Ankara seeks to protect its border from the militant group and the Kurdish YPG militia, which it sees as affiliates of the outlawed Kurdish PKK group.
The United States raised concerns over the Turkish incursion in Syria, and Germany said that a lasting Turkish presence in the war-torn country is undesirable.
Turkey aims to push the YPG fighters east of the Euphrates River, and is seeking the US support in this issue since the US is obliged to work with Turkey as a NATO member on “all different terrorist threats,” Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said on September 2, according to Hurriyet.
“We would like to see the pressure of the U.S. on the PYD to go to the east of the Euphrates. So it would be very useful if we would apply this operation with the US forces together,” Kurtulmus said in an interview.
Euphrates Shield was launched on August 24 with the support of Turkish air forces, as well as A-10S and F-16 warplanes from the US-led coalition.