More than 80 ISIS targets were attacked in the first hours of "Operation Euphrates Shield" early Wednesday, officials say, as Turkish armor and warplanes targeted a key ISIS-held town across its border with Syria.
Jarablus is one of the few towns in northern Syria that ISIS still controls and is a critical location for supplies, money and fighters coming into ISIS-held areas.
In recent months, much of Turkey's firepower has been directed at the Kurdish separatist PKK in southeastern Turkey and across the border in northern Iraq. It has also occasionally shelled ISIS positions in northern Syria, but its last-known airstrikes against ISIS were in November last year.Turkish authorities have been pressed into taking action against ISIS by the surge of suicide bombings in Turkey, as well as the terror group's use of safe houses and "informal" financial services on Turkish soil.
"Daesh should be completely cleansed from our borders, and we are ready to do that," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Tuesday, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
In recent days mortar shells apparently fired from ISIS positions in the Jarablus area landed in the Turkish town of Karkamis. More importantly, Turkish authorities blamed ISIS for a devastating suicide bombing at a wedding in the border town of Gaziantep at the weekend, killing 54 people.
It was the latest in a number of suspected ISIS bombings on Turkish soil, including a suicide attack on Istanbul's international airport in June.
Jubilation in Syria's Manbij as ISIS loses control
Ankara may also have calculated that ISIS is especially vulnerable, after many of its remaining fighters fled Manbij, another key stronghold in Syria. The town was liberated by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab forces backed by the United States.
ISIS' lines of communication and resupply have now been disrupted and it's taken heavy losses across northern Syria in recent months.
But Turkey is anxious that ISIS' vulnerability could provide an opportunity for their "other" enemy in northern Syria -- the Kurdish YPG militia -- who have taken several villages near Jarablus recently.
There may also be an internal reason for this offensive now. The morale of the military was shaken by July's coup attempt; a successful offensive against ISIS would play well both for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the high command.(Source: CNN)