Turkish fighter jets in military exercise to protect historic site in Syria from ISIL
The commander of the Turkish Air Force, Gen. Akın Öztürk, inspected a military exercise aimed at protecting frontier military posts, including the Tomb of Süleyman Şah in Syria. AA PhotosThe commander of the Turkish Air Force, Gen. Akın Öztürk, inspected a military exercise on Oct. 21 aimed at protecting frontier military posts, including the Tomb of Süleyman Şah in Syria.
The tomb has recently come into focus as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) made incursions into the region, according to both Turkish and U.S. officials.
“Gen. Öztürk flew over with pilots deployed at the Diyarbakır 181st Squadron command and inspected a military exercise planned [designed to] protect the Süleyman Şah military post and for the task of the Air Force in supporting military posts,” a written statement by the Turkish Air Force said on Oct. 27.
Öztürk inspected joint exercises with the Land Forces on the border with Iraq and Syria, according to the statement.
The general had a wireless conversation with the commander of the tomb and gave the message that the army was ready to stand by the post in the time of need, it added.
According to international agreements, the tomb, which is located less than 40 kilometers inside Syrian territory, is considered Turkish territory. Turkey has some 40 soldiers stationed at the tomb for its protection.
There have been reports that the Turkish army is preparing a small-scale operation for the protection of the tomb in the event of an attack by ISIL. Some other press reports suggested that the Turkish government has considered evacuating the tomb.
A recent motion by Parliament authorized the Turkish Armed Forces to conduct cross-border operations in Iraq and Syria and permit the deployment of foreign troops on its soil.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued a special Eid al-Adha message on Oct. 3 to the Turkish soldiers guarding the tomb, vowing that the army would not hesitate to provide immediate support in the event of an attack.
His message followed one released by Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel, who assured soldiers they were not alone.
Erdoğan told the troops that the people and their prayers were with them. “The Turkish Armed Forces will not hesitate to rush to your aid without delay,” he said.