Turkish army attacks 67 ISIS targets inside Syria, kills five militants

Turkish army attacks 67 ISIS targets inside Syria, kills five militants
Turkish army tanks make their way toward the Syrian border town of Jarablus, Syria August 24, 2016

The Turkish military said 67 ISIS targets were hit and five militants were killed Saturday in northern Syria as part of Operation Euphrates Shield.

According to a statement issued by the Turkish General Staff on Saturday, the targets were hit with 260 howitzer missiles and 59 multiple rockets in the region between Azaz and al-Rai.

Saturday’s statement said U.S. special forces had supported coalition forces in the operation in Azaz.

The Turkish military said coalition forces conducted three air operations against Daesh targets in the Baragidah, Tatimus and Kara Kuz regions, destroying five buildings.

Turkey said a total of 652 targets have been hit since the Operation Euphrates Shield — which aims to drive Daesh out of the region to the south of Turkey’s border — was launched on Aug. 24.

Jarablus, which had been held by Islamic State, was the first town captured by Turkey’s army and its Syrian rebel allies in an offensive launched on Aug. 24 that aims to sweep away ISIS militants and Syrian Kurdish militias from the frontier.

Turkey has long said it wants a “buffer zone” in the area, although it has not used the term during this incursion. As well as driving out the ultra-hardline Islamists, it also wants to prevent Kurdish militias from taking territory that will let them join up cantons they control in northeast and northwest Syria.

After Jarablus, the Turkish army opened a new front to the west of Jarablus by attacking al-Rai town.

Al-Rai is about 55 km (34 miles) west of Jarablus, and part of a 90-km corridor near the Turkish border that Ankara says it is clearing of jihadists and protecting from Kurdish militia expansion.

The rebels then seized villages to the east and the south of al-Rai, according to one rebel official.

The Turkish-backed operation was putting pressure on Islamic State from both east and west of a stretch of territory it controls along the border between the towns.

After that, the Turkish army said it cleared militants from a 90-km (56-mile) stretch of Syrian territory and has pushed south.

Turkey has also said it would support any U.S. initiative to strike Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa, further to the southeast.