Turkish special forces have entered Syrian territory in what they say is an operation against the Daesh terrorist 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 Jarabulus, 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 Jarabulus.
They asserted that the operation is aimed at “clearing Turkish borders of terrorist groups, helping to enhance border security and supporting the territorial integrity of Syria.”
The officials further said that the prevention of a new flow of migrants and facilitating the distribution of basic commodities among the region’s civilian population were also among the goals of the operation.
Observers believe Turkey is more concerned about Kurdish forces inside Syria. The Kurdish population in the region has long been seeking to establish an independent country by potentially taking territory from Turkey, Syria, Iraq and even Iran.
However, the Ankara government has recently been speaking somewhat more softly about the Syrian government, which it has long opposed.
On Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu vowed that Ankara would give “all kinds of support” to efforts to free Jarabulus from the grip of Daesh terrorists. “We do not want Daesh to exist in Iraq and Syria,” he told reporters.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus also said recently that Turkey saw Jarabulus “as a national security matter.”
“What we have said, since the beginning, is that having Jarabulus or any other city held by Daesh is unacceptable,” he said.
Earlier, Turkish officials said projectiles fired from Jarabulus hit downtown Karkamis, a city in southeast Turkey.
On Tuesday, authorities in the southeastern Turkish town Karkamis asked locals to evacuate the town and nearby areas for safety reasons. There were no reports of casualties, though.
The Turkish military retaliated both attacks with counterattacks on Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) positions and purported Daesh targets inside Syria.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
Back in 2014, the UN said it would no more update its official death toll for Syria.
The US-led military coalition involved in the Wednesday operations has been targeting positions it says belong to Daesh since September 2014.
By Press TV