Turkey along with rebels it supports from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) started a new line of attack in northern Syria with tanks rolling across the Turkish border seizing several village from the Islamic State (IS).
The incursion came from Kilis province, a province often targeted by IS rockets. Dogan news agency said Turkish tanks crossed into northern Syria from Kilis province on Saturday, while howitzers pounded ISIS positions in the area. There was a separate push by Turkish-backed rebels from the east. The rebels are mainly Arabs and Turkmen, part of the FSA. Last week rebels took the border town of Jarablus again with Turkish support. The operation called Euphrates Shield has the dual purpose of taking territory controlled by the Islamic but equally important to keep the US supported Kurds and their allies from advancing west of the Euphrates. The Turks worry that the Kurds could advance westward and link up with another Kurdish enclave further west.
On Saturday Turkish tanks entered the town of al-Rai to support rebels who already control the town. Al-Rai is approximately 55km (34 miles) west of Jarablus. It is part of a 90 km corridor next to the border Turkey hopes to clear of the IS but also will serve to prevent any possible Kurdish expansion. A senior official, Zakaria Malahifiji said: "They took several villages, about eight villages. At first they took two and withdrew from them, but then reinforcements came and there was an advance. Turkish airplanes had carried out airstrikes on Arab Essa a village about 30 km west of Jarablus, that was captured today.
Turkey disagrees with the US on the status of the Kurdish YPG militia. The US sees it as a key ally in attacking the IS whereas Turkey considers it a terrorist group. At the G20 meeting in China, Turkish president, Recep Erdogan, said: "There is no good terrorist. All terrorists are bad. All organizations involved in terrorism are cursed. This is how we see things and how we put up our struggle." Turkey claimed it had no desire to stay in Syria but was trying to protect its border from the IS and the YPG.
It was thought that the rebels might move south towards the town of Mabij controlled by the Kurdish coalition of rebels supported by the United States. The Turks may believe that US pressure will convince the Kurds to move back to east of the Euphrates river. It remains to be seen if this will actually happen. It seems inevitable that the Kurds in Syria and the Turks will have difficult relations.
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Ken is a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba, Canada, with his Filipina wife. He enjoys reading the news and writing articles. Politically Ken is on the far left of the political spectrum on many issues.