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Turkey ups its offensive against IS in Syria

Turkish tanks have crossed into northern Syria from the Kilis province. Photograph: (Reuters)

WION Istanbul, Turkey Sep 03, 2016, 04.44 PM (IST)
Turkey ramped up its its offensive against the Islamic State in Syria on Saturday as its tanks crossed into the northern part of the country from the Kilis province.

Turkey's fresh military impetus helped Syrian rebels retake two villages held by the IS. 

"Today, they (Turkey-backed Syrian rebels) managed to take control of the villages of Arab Ezza, al-Fursan, and have moved towards Lilwa," Ahmed Othman, a commander in the pro-Turkey rebel group Sultan Murad, told Al Jazeera from Aleppo's northern suburbs. 

Howitzers belonging to the Turkish force pounded IS strongholds in the area, Dogan news agency reported.

A Reuters cameraman in the area earlier heard a repeated booming sound and saw plumes of smoke rising from the Syrian side of the border.

The tanks are reported to have crossed the frontier near the Turkish village of Cobanbey. 

The area is some 55 kilometres southwest of Jarablus, where last week Turkish-backed Syrian forces launched "Operation Euphrates Shield", Turkey's first major incursion into Syria since the civil war began five years ago.

Turkish-backed Syrian rebels have made advances against IS militants on one hand and the US-backed Kurdish rebels on the other. 

The same day, Turkish-backed rebel factions from the Free Syrian Army announced that they had seized several villages from the Islamic State, news that was confirmed by monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 

The Hamza Brigade, a group fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, said it had taken control of Arab Ezza, a village near which Turkish warplanes carried out air strikes on Friday.

A source in the Failaq al-Sham rebel group said FSA factions had also captured the villages of Fursan, Lilawa, Kino and Najma just south of Arab Ezza.

The US has voiced concerns about Turkish strikes on Kurdish-aligned groups which it backs in its battle against the Islamic State stating that it would jeopardise the broader goal of ridding Syria of the militant group.

(WION with inputs from Reuters)
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