Turkish forces and Syrian rebels have driven out the Islamic State (ISIS) group from its remaining territory along the Syrian-Turkish border, Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim had said.
Speaking from the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Yildirim said on Sunday that Turkish troops and Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army fighters had cleared the area between the northern Syrian towns of Azaz and Jarablus.
“Our 91km border has been completely secured,” he said during a televised speech. “All terrorist organisations have been repulsed and they have gone.”
Earlier, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency had said the advance had “removed terror organisation ISIS’s physical contact with the Turkish border in northern Syria”.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said on Sunday that ISIS “had lost its contact with the outside world after losing the remaining border villages between the Sajur River… and Al-Rai”.
The UK-based group, which monitors daily developments in the war, said “rebels and Islamist factions backed by Turkish tanks and warplanes” had taken several villages on the border “after IS withdrew from them, ending IS’s presence… on the border”.
A journalist city of Elbeyli on the Turkish side of the Syria-Turkey border, said the rebels’ offensive had forced “ISIS fighters to pull out towards al-Bab, which is their last remaining stronghold in northern Syria”.
Operation “Euphrates Shield”, in which Turkish troops and tanks entered Syria in support of rebels for the first time, began on Aug. 24 with the swift capture of Jarablus, a town a few km (miles) inside Syria that was held by Islamic State.
Turkey has long said it wants a “buffer zone” in the area, although it has not used the term during this incursion. As well as driving out the ultra-hardline Islamists, it also wants to prevent Kurdish militias from taking territory that will let them join up cantons they control in northeast and northwest Syria.