Middle East

IS conflict: Turkey sends more tanks into Syria

Turkish tanks, west of Karkamis, 3 September 2016 Image copyright AFP
Image caption The latest Turkish incursion into northern Syria opens a new front against IS

Turkey has sent more tanks into northern Syria, in an operation against the Islamic State (IS) group, Turkish media reports say.

The tanks crossed the border near the Turkish town of Kilis and journalists later heard firing and saw plumes of smoke rising on Syrian territory.

Civilians were seen fleeing as the Turkish military advanced.

Syrian rebels backed by Turkey said they had recaptured at least eight villages from IS in the area.

The tanks' advance was supported by artillery, targeting IS positions, Turkish media said.

The reports said about 20 tanks, five armoured personnel carriers and other armoured vehicles were involved in the assault.

The incursion took place about 55km (34 miles) south-west of Jarablus, where Turkey last week launched its first major incursion into Syria since the conflict started.

Syrian rebels backed by Turkey said the offensive aimed to put pressure on IS from both east and west in that area of the border zone.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels had won control from IS of villages both in the area towards Jarablus and along the new front to the west.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Civilians were seen fleeing, as tanks advanced in the background

The latest incursion comes three days after Turkey hit out at the United States over criticism of its role in the Syrian conflict.

Turkish forces have targeted IS inside Syria, but have also attacked Kurdish fighters in the same region.

The pursuit of the Kurdish YPG militia has led to criticism by Washington, which regards the Kurds as one of the most effective forces in the battle against IS.

Ankara says the Kurdish militia fighters in Syria have links with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is banned in Turkey and fighting Turkish forces in the south-east of the country.

In the latest incidents, at least 11 Turkish soldiers were killed in two separate clashes with the PKK - one in Van province on Friday and another in Hakkari province on Saturday.

The fighting in Van, around the Tendurek mountains, resulted in the death of 13 PKK militants in air strikes, Turkish media said.

Thirty-three militants were killed in the Hakkari clashes, the Turkish military said.