ISIL must be cleared from Syrian border, says Turkish FM
AA photoTurkey’s foreign minister has said militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) must be totally pushed from the Syrian border region, as reports suggest that Syrian rebels are preparing to launch an attack to seize a town from the jihadists on the border with Turkey.
“Our border must be completely cleansed of Daesh,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Aug. 22, speaking within hours of suicide bomb attack killed at least 54 people and wounded nearly 70 others at a Kurdish wedding party in the southeastern border province of Gaziantep.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has slammed the attack as an apparent attempt by ISIL to destabilize Turkey by exploiting ethnic and religious tensions.
Çavuşoğlu’s remarks delivered at a joint press conference following talks with Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius came in response to a reporter’s question on reports suggesting that Turkey would lend support to the Syrian opposition for its move to capture Jarablus through intelligence-sharing and Howitzer shootings on ISIL militants on the Syrian side of the border.
“It is our most natural right to support the fight at home and abroad against such a terrorist organization,” Çavuşoğlu said.
“The factions are gathering in an area near the border [inside Turkey],” one of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters, meanwhile, told Reuters.
Another rebel source confirmed a buildup of forces, loosely organized under the FSA umbrella, inside Turkey at a military camp near the town of Qarqamish just across the border with Jarablus.
“Every day there are groups of fighters entering from inside Syria across a secret crossing to a Turkish base where they are gathering in preparation of the assault on Jarablus,” the source told the news agency.
Another source, in the hardline rebel group Ahrar al-Sham, expected the assault on Jarablus to begin within the next few days.
The Arabic crew of Russia Today, the Russian state-run English-language news channel, has reported that some 600 to 700 fighters are ready to launch an assault on Jarablus. The Lebanon-based Al Mayadeen channel has, meanwhile, reported that dozens of military vehicles already have crossed from Turkey into Syria.
According to Reuters, the forces are made up of Failaq al-Sham, Sultan Murad, Ahrar al-Sham and Jabha al-Shamiya units. The assault is expected to begin over the next few days, before the SDF can retake the ISIL-held town.
The U.S.-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters have also been making a push towards the border town after taking full control of Manbij by driving ISIL militants from the strategically important town, used by terrorists to smuggle weapons and goods. The SDF already controls the eastern bank of the Euphrates opposite Jarablus.