Operation Euphrates Shield Continues, Turkish Military Opens a New Front Against ISIS

Today, September 3, Turkish military units crossed the border into Syria, opening a new front against ISIS with tanks entering the Syrian town of al-Rai.

Turkish tanks near Jarablus (Image : screenshot)

Turkish tanks near Jarablus (Image : screenshot)

Operation “Euphrates Shield”, launched by Turkey in cooperation with the US-led anti-ISIS coalition, started on August 24 with attacks on ISIS strongholds in the border town of Jarablus (Jarabulus).

Free Syrian Army (FSA), backed by Turkish military, subsequently captured Jarablus and 32 villages – located west of the Euphrates River.

According to Turkish officials, the intent of the Euphrates Shield is to secure Turkey’s borders, and safeguard Turkish citizens from possible attacks by ISIS or Kurdish Militants (YPG). Following the capture of Jarablus by the FSA, the second aim of the Euphrates Shield Operation is to secure al-Rai town in order to ensure connections between FSA-held territories.

Turkish media website, Daily Sabah, reports that the third aim of the Euphrates Shield Operation will most likely be pushing ISIS forces further south to al-Bab.

Several media agencies have reported that three rockets were fired from Syria by ISIS when Turkish tanks approached al-Rai; the rockets hit downtown of the Turkish border city of Kilis.

Since January, 21 of Kilis’ citizens were killed by ISIS rocket attacks.

While ISIS is the primary target of the operation, Ankara insists on withdrawal of Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) forces further to the east of the Euphrates River. Several statements made by the Turkish President, PM and Foreign Minister reaffirmed that stance. The PM of Turkey publicly stated that Euphrates Shield will not stop until YPG retreats.

People’s Protection Unit (YPG) is an armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PDY) in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava). Turkey considers YPG to be a terrorist organization – closely tied with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey.

While PKK is regarded as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU, YPG is a different matter in international politics; Turkey has urged the US and the EU several times to denounce YPG as a terrorist organization in the past.

Dejan Scepanovic

Based in Bosnia and Herzegovina. BA in political science. Columnist.