Turkish tanks cross into Syria's FSA-held al Rai from Kilis, Daesh positions under howitzer fire

Published 03.09.2016 14:05
Updated 05.09.2016 11:31
Free Syrian Army fighters shared images of Turkish tanks advancing in al Rai through social media networks on Sept. 3, 2016 (DHA Photo)
Free Syrian Army fighters shared images of Turkish tanks advancing in al Rai through social media networks on Sept. 3, 2016 (DHA Photo)

Turkish tanks crossed Saturday into the northern Syrian town of al Rai from Turkey's southeastern Kilis province, as Turkish howitzers pounded Daesh positions during their passage.

Around 20 tanks, five armored personnel carriers, trucks and other armored vehicles crossed into Syrian territory controlled by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) from Elbeyli district, supporting FSA units advancing southward from al Rai.

Al Rai, also known as Çobanbey in Turkish with a train station on the former Baghdad railway located inside Turkish territory, was heavily contested between the FSA and Daesh since March, and the town changed hands couple of times before finally being controlled by the FSA on Aug. 28 with the support of Turkish ground forces and the Coalition air strikes.

A statement by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) said that the villages of İdalat and Talyah Garbiyah along with the Kubba Turkuman airport were captured by advancing FSA units. Two Daesh positions in the Wuguf area in the south of the town was targeted by Turkish jets, the statement said.

Meanwhile, some 25 kilometers northeast, FSA units captured the Arab Azah and Fursan villages from Daesh and reached Sajour Dam, TSK's statement added. Daily Sabah reporter Yunus Paksoy said that Turkish units deployed at the border supported FSA's advance through artillery fire.

Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield on Aug. 24 in cooperation with the U.S.-led anti-Daesh coalition to clear terrorist groups from Turkey's borders. So far, Turkey-backed FSA units captured the town of Jarablus and more than 32 villages located west of the Euphrates River.

Following the successfully completed initial goal of capturing Jarablus, the operation's second aim is to secure al Rai and connect the FSA-held Azaz and Jarablus territories. Once this goal is achieved, the third target will likely be to push Daesh terrorists further south to al Bab. This area also overlaps with the humanitarian zone that Turkey had long proposed to be founded to curb the refugee flow and protect its borders.

As Turkish tanks were crossing into Syria, three Katyusha rockets fired from Daesh-held territory in Syria landed in the city center of Kilis, located some six kilometers north of the border. One civilian was slightly injured.

Turkish howitzers responded to Daesh fire with 16 shells, destroying two positions that fired into Turkish territory.

Since January, Kilis was targeted by dozens of Daesh-fired rockets, which killed 21 civilians and injured dozens. The last rockets landed in the city center on Monday, injuring six people.

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