Rebels take full control of strategic border town in massive operation backed by Turkish and US air strikes.
Three Turkish soldiers have been killed and four wounded during clashes with ISIL fighters in northern Syria, according to Turkey’s armed forces.
The deaths are the first to be blamed on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group, also known as ISIS, since the launch of Turkey’s cross-border operation two weeks ago.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Turkish military said ISIL “elements” had targeted two of its tanks “in a rocket attack” near the Syrian town of al-Rai.
The army initially said that two of its troops had been killed, but later said another soldier had succumbed to his wounds.
Two Ankara-backed Syrian fighters were killed and two wounded in clashes with ISIL in the same region, it said.
Turkey first sent tanks across the border on August 24 as part of a two-pronged offensive against ISIL and Kurdish-led forces.
Four days later, the Turkish army suffered its first fatality in northern Syria in a similar rocket attack blamed on Kurdish militia.
The army said on Tuesday that the ISIL attack took place in the Wuquf village, south of al-Rai, where Turkish tanks opened a second front in their Syria operation at the weekend.
The area is west of Jarablus near the Turkish border which was taken from ISIL by the Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) at the start of the operation.
Meanwhile, Turkish media reported that Wuquf and Sadvi villages, both near al-Rai, were seized from ISIL by FSA fighters.
On Sunday, ISIL fighters were expelled from their last positions along the Turkish-Syrian border, depriving the group of a key crossing point for recruits and supplies.
Turkey wants to establish a safe zone in the 91km area stretching from Jarablus to Azaz to the west.
“Our 91km border has been completely secured,” Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said during a televised speech on Sunday.
“All terrorist organisations have been repulsed and they have gone.”
Dubbed Euphrates Shield, Turkey’s operation, which involves tanks, fighter jets and special forces, is targeting both ISIL but also Syrian Kurdish forces that have been key to driving ISIL fighters out of other parts of the Syrian-Turkish border.
The Kurdish YPG militia is a key partner of the US-led coalition against ISIL, and has recaptured large swaths of territory in Syria from the group.
Yet, Ankara considers the YPG a “terrorist” group and has been alarmed by its expansion along the border, fearing the creation of a contiguous, semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Syria.