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Turkish FM: Syrian operation is to clear Daesh

At least nine more Turkish tanks entered northern Syria on Thursday as part of the military operation to drive Islamic State out of the border town of Jarablus, as well as stopping Kurdish militia fighters from seizing territory.

A Turkish official told Reuters there are now more than 20 Turkish tanks inside Syria and that more would be sent as required.

"We need construction machinery to open up roads and we may need more in the days ahead," the official said on condition of anonymity. "We also have armoured personnel carriers that could be used on the Syrian side. We may put them into service as needed."

Turkey received multiple boosts on Wednesday when the US backed the Turkish seizure of an Islamic State-held Syrian border town, and warned Kurdish allies in Syria they must halt their advances or face losing American support.

In a visit to Ankara, US Vice President Joe Biden said the US supported the Turkish incursion into Jarabulus, after earlier warning that America's Syrian-Kurdish allies of the People's Protection Units, or YPG, "should not spread west of the Euphrates... if they do they will never receive US support again. Period."

That statement strongly supported Ankara's long-held "red line" policy that such a crossing would create a contiguous Kurdish enclave in the north of Syria and boost Turkey's arch-enemy, the Kurdish PKK.

Within hours of Biden's statement, Kurdish website K24 reported that the YPG was withdrawing as demanded.

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, later said residents in Jarabulus "have their city back" - suggesting the town was in the control of his forces.

The US said it had used F-16 and A-10 "tankbuster" jets to support Turkish armour, special forces and up to 5,000 allied Syrian FSA soldiers in the battle, which began in the early hours of Wednesday.

Images this afternoon showed Turkey-backed rebels patrolling the centre of the town.

The Sultan Murad Brigades, a group largely composed of Syrian Turkmens - was leading the charge.

Ahmad Othman, the commander of the brigade, told AFP in the late afternoon that "Jarabulus is completely liberated".

There were reports that the bulk of IS forces had withdrawn before Turkey began its incursion.

Anadolu news agency reported just one casualty among FSA ranks in a full day of fighting.

Pictures circulated on social media of FSA soldiers walking freely around Jarabulus.

Nevertheless, the rapidity of the advance was in complete contrast to the long-grinding battles where Kurdish forces had taken towns in northern Syria, including Kobane and Manbij, from IS.

Ankara has been keen to emphasise the offensive was not targeting Syria's territorial integrity.

Jarabulus is the last major town in the hands of IS along the border with Turkey.

The aim of Turkey's Syria military operation is to clear Daesh from the southern border, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a news conference in Ankara alongside his Estonian counterpart Marina Kaljurand, Cavusoglu said the terror group targeted the country because Turkey "is one of the most decisive countries in the fight against Daesh".

Cavusoglu's remarks came as Turkish tanks crossed the border into northern Syria as part of operations to clear Daesh terrorists from the city of Jarabulus.

This ground intervention followed Turkey's shelling of northern Syria, hitting 81 targets almost 300 times from 4.00 a.m. on Wednesday.

Cavusoglu said the Turkish Armed Forces' activities were continuing "without a hitch", adding: "We are working together with the coalition regarding air support."

Turkish officials are blaming Daesh for Saturday's deadly blast at a wedding ceremony in south-eastern province of Gaziantep which left 54 people dead.

Wednesday's anti-Daesh operation, called Euphrates Shield, aims to support U.S.-led coalition forces, strengthen Turkey's border security by clearing away terrorist groups and maintain Syria's territorial integrity.

Cavusoglu also said the YPG - the military wing of the PYD terrorist group - must return to east of the Euphrates River, adding: "The U.S. also supports this. Otherwise, I am saying very clearly that we will do what is necessary."

Source: Donia Al-Watan