Turkey on Saturday sent more tanks into the northern Syrian village of al-Rai to fight Islamic State extremists, opening a new front after its intervention last month against the group, state media reported.
The tanks crossed into the village from the Turkish border town of Kilis to provide military support to Syrian opposition fighters after ridding northern villages of extremists in its “Euphrates Shield” operation launched on August 24, state-run Anadolu news agency said.
At least 20 tanks, five armoured personnel carriers, trucks and other armoured vehicles crossed the border, Dogan news agency said.
Turkish Firtina howitzers fired on IS targets as the fresh armoured contingent advanced, Dogan said.
Ahmed Othman, a commander in pro-Turkey rebel group Sultan Murad, told AFP in Beirut that the group was now “working now on two fronts in al-Rai, south and east, in order to advance towards the villages recently liberated from IS west of Jarabalus”.
Last month’s operation was Ankara’s most ambitious during the five-and-a-half-year Syria conflict and has continued since with tanks, war planes and special forces providing support to rebels.
Within 14 hours on August 24, Turkish-backed Syrian rebels recaptured the border town of Jarabulus from IS and continued to make gains in villages nearby.
According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Turkey-backed rebels also took control of three villages close to the border on Saturday, two on the Jarabulus front and one on the new al-Rai front.
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said that “they are trying to take control of the border area between Jarabulus and Rai from IS”.+