Rebels allied with Turkey on Sunday cleared terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) elements from the last stretch of the Turkish border with Syria, the official Anadolu news agency reported, citing military sources.
It was hallmark progress in Turkey’s bid to secure the 90-kilometer (55 miles) corridor and marks a significant step in Ankara’s plan to stop the expansion of Kurdish militias towards the west.
With this, ISIL no longer controls any part of the border and has been removed from NATO’s southeastern frontier in an operation backed by Turkish tanks and troops.
The moderate Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels took control of the frontier between Azaz and Jarabulus after capturing the last 20 villages from the extremist group, the Turkish military said in a statement.
“We are there to protect our border, to provide for our citizens safety of life and property, and to ensure Syria’s integrity,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in a speech on Sunday, discussing the incursion, which Ankara calls Euphrates Shield, a Reuters report said.
“We will never allow the formation of an artificial state in the north of Syria,” he told a crowd in Diyarbakir, the largest city in the mainly Kurdish Southeast.
In military terms, the operation has reached its stated objectives little more than a week after Turkey launched its intervention against ISIL in northern Syria, sending a contingent of tanks and troops while providing air support to the rebels.
Turkey-backed rebels took control of Jarabulus in late August.
On Saturday, a new front was opened when Turkish tanks rolled into Syria from Kilis, advancing toward Jarabulus from the west.