Turkish special forces have entered Syrian territory in what they say is an operation against the ISILTakfiri group in a Syrian city near the Turkish border.
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.
“The Turkish Armed Forces and the International Coalition Air Forces have launched a military operation aimed at clearing the district of Jarabulus of the province of Aleppo from the terrorist organization Daesh,” Turkish prime minister’s statement said, using an Arabic acronym for the ISIL group.
In an earlier interview with private NTV television, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said Ankara saw Jarablus — “as a national security matter”.
“What we have said, since the beginning, is that having Jarablus or any other city held by IS is unacceptable,” he said.
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 ISIL terrorists.
“We do not want Daesh to exist in Iraq and Syria,” he told reporters.