Turkey strikes ISIL targets near Syria’s Al-Bab
Military says one soldier and five FSA fighters killed in northern Syria as part of two-pronged cross-border operation.
Turkish fighter jets have carried out strikes against ISIL positions near Syria’s Al-Bab, following the death of a Turkish soldier in clashes with the group in the same area, according to the country’s military.
Four Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters were also killed in the incidents in the same area during the past 24 hours, Turkish armed forces said in a statement on Friday.
The military said it hit seven ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group, positions in the Barakah, Anifah and Abu Hayj regions of northern Syria on Thursday.
The attacks targeted two headquarters, three defence positions and an arsenal that is controlled by ISIL, also known as ISIS, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said, citing military sources.
Thursday’s clashes marked the 11th Turkish casualty so far in Turkey’s two-pronged, cross-border operation against ISIL and Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria.
Turkey first sent tanks across the border on August 24 as part of the operation Euphrates Shield.
Four days later, the Turkish army suffered its first fatality in northern Syria, in a rocket attack blamed on Kurdish militia.
On September 6, three more Turkish soldiers were killed and four others were wounded in an ISIL attack on two tanks near the town of Al-Rai in northern Syria.
Three more Turkish soldiers were killed on September 9 when a Turkish tank was hit by ISIL fighters a near the Syrian town of Tal el-Hawa.
On Thursday, three Turkish soldiers were killed near Al-Bab, in what the military said was a suspected Syrian air strike, the first such deaths at the hands of Syrian government forces since August.
Turkey has said it will retaliate against the attacks.
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At the moment, the Turkish troops are not engaged in combat with Syrian government forces.
Reports said FSA fighters, backed by Turkish tanks and air strikes, continued attacks to gain control of Al-Bab on Friday.
The city is in a strategic area, close to the Turkish border in northern Syria en route to Raqqa and Idlib.
Al-Bab is one of the few remaining strongholds of ISIL.
After it takes Al-Bab, Turkish military says, the objective is to clear the whole area and retake the town of Manbij from the SDF, the largely Kurdish militia.
Over 215 residential areas, including Jarablus city in northern Syria, have been cleared of ISIL as part of the Euphrates Shield operation so far, according to the Turkish military.