The Turkish military and the U.S.-led coalition forces launched an operation in the Jarablus region of Syria to clear its borders from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadist group early on Aug. 24, according to press reports.
The operation began at around 4 a.m. with the Turkish artillery units launching a total of 224 fires on 63 targets within around two hours which was followed four separate air operations by the Turkish and coalition warplanes bombing ISIL targets. It was the first time that the Turkish F-16’s launched an air operation in northern Syria since the downing of a Russian jet for violating its airspace on Nov. 24, 2015. Military sources have said a total of 12 targets were destroyed in the air operation. They added that another 70 targets were destroyed by shellings and rocket launcher fires.
The military operation aimed at clearing the Turkish border from “terrorist elements,” halting the new wave of refugee flows and delivering humanitarian aid to civilians in the region, the last significant town held by the jihadist group on the border with Turkey, the agency said. It also aimed at prioritizing and supporting Syria’s territorial integrity, according to the report. According to military sources, a ground offensive has not begun yet while works to open corridor have been ongoing, private broadcaster CNN Türk has reported. However, a senior Turkish official told Reuters that a group of Turkish special forces crossed into northern Syria. A number of tanks and caterpillars were also deployed across the border as a part of the operation. Meanwhile, the Gaziantep Governor’s office declared some regions across the border as special security zone. In addition, another mortar shell fired from Jarablus hit an uncultivated field the Karkamış district.
The U.S. Department of State spokesperson Mark Toner also said they were in close contact with Turkish officials on the operation. “Well, we’re in contact with Turkish officials, as well as representatives of the Syrian Democratic Forces, on this incident. I would say that we’re working to ensure that tensions don’t escalate and to remind both sides or both parties that ISIL is the main enemy here and the common enemy that must be confronted, and that our efforts need to be geared towards ensuring that all of our partners remain focused on that goal,” Toner said speaking at the daily press briefing.
The Jarablus operation came hours after a series of mortar shells fired from ISIL-held regions in northern Syria hit the Karkamış district of the border province of Kilis.