Turkey evacuates border town as battle for Jarabulus approaches

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Turkish border guards watching bombardments on the Syrian side of the border. File photo

ANKARA – Turkey on Tuesday ordered residents to evacuate a Turkish border town that lies opposite the Syrian town of Jarabulus controlled by ISIS militants, television reported.

Police warned residents through loudspeakers to evacuate “for safety reasons” the town of Karkamis which was hit by a series of mortars fired from ISIS-held areas.

Media reports suggest Turkey is preparing Syrian rebel forces to cross the border to take the city of Jarabulus.

The Turkish pledged Tuesday to give “all kinds of support” to push ISIS militants out of the city, near the two countries’ border.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu made the promise amid the reports that Ankara-backed rebels were massing on the border in anticipation of an impending operation against ISIS.

“We will provide all kinds of support to the Jarabulus operation,” Cavusoglu said, promising to help “cleanse” ISIS from neighboring countries. “We do not want Daesh to exist in Iraq and Syria,” he told reporters, using an Arabic acronym for the ISIS group.

Turkish media reported that tanks and armored vehicles amassed on the Syrian border.

“What we have said, since the beginning, is that having Jarabulus or any other city held by ISIS is unacceptable,” Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said.

However, Turkey for over a year has said that Jarabulus is a red line, and the Kurds are not allowed to take the town of Jarabulus–which has been under the control of the Islamic State (ISIS) for over two years. However, since crossing Tisreen dam and taking Manbij city from ISIS two weeks ago, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have got closer to the town of Jarabulus on the Syrian-Turkish border. 

The SDF-backed Jarabulus Military Council was announced in a statement on Monday. After three hours, al-Cadiri was killed by sniper fire in the town of Sheykler. The Kurds say two agents of the Turkish intelligence were captured by the Jarabulus Military Council and are being interrogated.

“We in the military council of Jarabulus warn the Turkish government for its aggressive actions. We stress we will not stand idle towards such hostile acts,” the council previously said about Turkish plans to back Syrian rebels to take over Jarabulus.

Turkey Bombs anti-ISIS forces

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said that the Turkish army on Monday shelled their SDF positions with heavy artillery.

Backed by the US-led coalition, the Kurdish-Arab SDF alliance is deemed the main force fighting the radical group of Islamic State (ISIS) in northern Syria. 

“The Turkish state officially supports Daesh and bombs the positions of the Manbij military council and its countryside in the northern axis of the defence positions at Sajur river,” SDF spokesperson Sharvan Darwish said on Monday.

Speaking to ARA News, Nicholas Heras, a Washington-based Middle East researcher at the Centre for a New American Security, said that Turkey wants to prevent SDF advances against ISIS.

“Turkey has a vested interest in making sure that the SDF remains aware that nothing is sustainable in northern Syria without the Turks’ longterm buy-in,” he said.

“This is their way of signaling that, without forcing Turkey to invest in a ground campaign in Syria,” Heras added.

Last year in October and July Turkey also prevented Kurdish and FSA forces from crossing the Euphrates River, hitting them with artillery and tanks.

Source: ARA News and agencies

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