Turkey confirms that it has used fighter jets to target Islamic State bases in Syria
A day after Turkish troops crossed the border in to Syria to fight the Islamic State (IS) group, the Prime Ministry revealed on Friday that three of the country’s F-16 fighter jets hit IS targets early in the morning.
The decision to launch the air operation against targets in Syria was taken at a meeting of security officials in Ankara late on Thursday chaired by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
According to a statement released by the Davutoglu’s office, four bombs were dropped on two IS command posts as well as at an assembly point. The fighter jets arrived back at their base and the operation was carried out without violating Syrian airspace, the statement said.
“Three F-16 jets took off from Diyarbakir Eighth Main Jet Base Command at 03:12am (0012 GMT),” the statement said.
“Three IS targets were hit in an air operation between 03:40-03:53am. The government of the Turkish Republic is determined to take the necessary measures to protect national security.”
The latest escalation came after IS fighters shot at a Turkish troop stationed at the border, killing one soldier and wounding two others.
This is the first time the Turkish air force has bombed IS since the latter captured large swathes of territory across Syria and Iraq in 2013.
Four Turkish tanks from the fifth armoured brigade responded by opening fire on IS targets in Syria in the most serious cross-border clashes yet between the two sides.
The fighting erupted after the killing of 32 people in a suicide bombing on Monday in a Turkish town on the Syrian border, which was blamed on IS, sparked an upsurge in violence in Turkey’s Kurdish-dominated southeast.
In response to the recent wave of deadly violence in the country, Turkey carried out 251 arrests on Friday morning in coordinated nationwide dawn raids against suspected IS fighters and Kurdish militants in a massive operation that involved 5,000 police.
According to local media, 140 addresses were raided in 26 districts in Istanbul alone.
The arrests were spread across 13 provinces in Turkey.
Turkey’s role in the international anti-IS coalition has been ambiguous at best. Despite owning the second largest land army in NATO and having a strong air force, Turkey has been reluctant to take up a military interventionist role.
The country, which shares a 900 kilometre border with Syria, has up until recently refused to allow the United States to use the airbase at Incirlik outside Adana in the south.
After months of negotiations however, Turkey finally gave the green light for the US to use its air base for air strikes against IS.
The New York Times said the agreement, which would allow manned and unmanned US warplanes to use Incirlik for raids against IS, was descried by a senior administration office as a “game changer”.
Resource: Middle East Eye, July 24, 2015