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Turkey begins operation in Syria to establish buffer zone: Report

File photo shows Turkish military forces © AFP

Turkey has reportedly launched a military operation on the Syrian side of the border as part of a plan to establish a buffer zone in Syria.        

According to a Tuesday report by the Turkish Yeni Safak newspaper, the operation allegedly aims to push back the Takfiri Daesh terrorists from an area that is 18 kilometers long and 8 kilometers deep in Syria’s Jarablus region.

Under the plan, the Turkish military will use artillery shells, guided missiles and mortars to target the militants who have repeatedly fired rockets at the southern Turkish border town of Kilis.

The newspaper said the operation will be supported by the international coalition, particularly the United States and Germany.

Earlier in April, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara will deploy a US-made rocket launcher system on the border with Syria to allegedly combat the Takfiri Daesh terrorists.

Cavusoglu said the US High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) would be “deployed on the Turkish border in May as part of an agreement” with Washington.

HIMARS would allow Turkey to hit Daesh positions within a 90-kilometer (56-mile) range, while Turkish artillery has a limited range of only 40 kilometers (24 miles), the minister stated.

Ankara is seeking to establish a safe zone in the 98-kilometer (60-mile) stretch between Manbij in Aleppo Province, northern Syria, and the border to shelter Syrian refugees, the Turkish foreign minister said.

Citing unnamed US officials, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that Turkey’s special military force carried out an unusual weekend operation against Daesh in Syria.

A small group of elite Turkish troops entered Syria on Saturday to help more effectively target Daesh who have been launching rocket attacks into Turkey for weeks, US officials claimed.

According to the US officials, the operation was part of a deepening campaign by the Turkish army to push Daesh away from a vital 60-mile stretch of the Turkey-Syria border that serves as the group’s main lifeline.

Over the past few weeks, Kilis has come under frequent rocket attacks by Daesh militants, prompting the Turkish army to respond with howitzer fire.

Turkey has frequently used such rocket attacks as a pretext to shell the Syrian territory or send troops into the Arab country. 

Kilis is a town located just north of the Syrian border, some 10 kilometers from the Syrian town of Azaz. According to Turkish officials, it is the only town in Turkey with a majority of Syrians. 

In late July 2015, reports said that Washington and Ankara have agreed to establish a buffer zone along the Turkey-Syria border in an alleged attempt to flush Daesh Takfiri terrorists out of the demarcated region and facilitate the return of the Syrian refugees to their homeland.

The United Nations has voiced concerns over the plan, saying Turkey should first guarantee the safety of the refugees in the area.

Iran has also expressed their opposition to the plan, saying it encroaches upon the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Arab country.

Moreover, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov censured the proposal, which he said, contradicts the international law and will heighten tensions in the region. 

Syrian children walk on rubble after their building partially collapsed following an airstrike in the militant-held area of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on April 19, 2015. © AFP

Many blame Ankara for supporting militant groups that have been fighting to topple the Syrian government. The Turkish government also stands accused of being involved in illegal oil trade with Daesh, but it strongly rejects the allegations.

In late May 2015, Turkish-language Cumhuriyet newspaper posted on its website footage purportedly showing trucks belonging to Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization, also known as the MIT, carrying weapons for militant groups in Syria.

Since late September 2014, the United States, along with some of its allies, has been conducting airstrikes against purported positions of Daesh inside Syria without any authorization from Damascus or the United Nations. Turkey permits US warplanes to use its air base in the south for the airstrikes.

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, which has furthermore displaced over half of Syria’s pre-war population of about 23 million.

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