Turkey Bombs ISIS, Kurdish Targets in Syria, Says 'Opening Corridor' for Moderate Rebels

Artillery fire strikes Kurdish-held Manbij and ISIS targets in Jarablus, official says. Rebels affiliated with Free Syrian Army purportedly planning to attack Jarablus from inside Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016.
Presidential Press Service via AP

Turkey's military fired on Syrian Kurdish targets 20 times with artillery at Manbij in northern Syria, a Turkish official said, adding that the military was continuing to hit Islamic State targets in the Syrian town of Jarablus on the border with Turkey.

"The fundamental aim in the latest operation is to open a corridor for moderate rebels," the official said. 

A senior rebel official said Turkish-backed Syrian rebels were preparing to launch an attack to seize Jarablus from Islamic State, a move that would deny control to advancing Syrian Kurdish fighters.

The rebels, groups fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, are expected to attack Jarablus from inside Turkey in the next few days. Reuters TV footage showed around 10 Turkish tanks deployed at a village around 4 km (2.5 miles) from the border gate immediately across from Jarablus. It was not clear how long the tanks had been there.

Prime Minister Binali Yilidirm has said Turkey would take a more active role in Syria in the next six months to prevent the country from being divided along ethnic lines.

The Turkish artillery fire followed a massive suicide bombing in the southeastern city of Gaziantep. A bomber suspected of links to the ISIS killed 54 people, including 22 children, at a Kurdish wedding, in the deadliest attack in Turkey this year. President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday it was carried out by a suicide bomber aged between 12 and 14, adding that initial evidence pointed to Islamic State.

But speaking to reporters in Ankara on Monday Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said it was too early to verify the organization responsible or whether the attack was carried out by a child.

"Daesh should be completely cleansed from our borders and we are ready to do what it takes for that," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a news conference in Ankara, using an Arabic name for the group.

Cavusoglu said Turkey, a member of NATO and the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, had become the "number one target" for the militants because of its work to stop recruits travelling through Turkey across its over 800 km (500 mile) border into Syria to join the Sunni hardline group.