In new operation, Turkish tanks enter northern Syria

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Syrian civilians, with Turkish Army tanks in the background, walk through the Turkish border as they are pictured from a village in Kilis province, Turkey, September 3, 2016. Photo By Ismail Coskun/Ihlas News Agency/via Reuters

Syrian civilians, with Turkish Army tanks in the background, walk through the Turkish border as they are pictured from a village in Kilis province, Turkey, September 3, 2016. Photo By Ismail Coskun/Ihlas News Agency/via Reuters

Turkish tanks entered northern Syria on Saturday, joining rebel fighters and expanding in a push against the Islamic State that began last week.

About 20 tanks and five armored vehicles entered the Syrian town of al-Rai from Turkey, where forces met with the Free Syrian Army in a joint military campaign named Operation Euphrates Shield, according to Turkish state media.

The move comes after a bevy of attacks across Turkey claimed by the Islamic State. The attacks first spurred Turkey’s entry into Syria on Aug. 24, about 35 miles from Saturday’s invasion.

Last week, Turkish forces began a military campaign with the backing of American airstrikes and with a contingent of Syrian rebels, who managed within hours to drive Islamic State fighters from the border town of Jarabulus.

Turkish army tanks and military personal are stationed in Karkamis on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern Gaziantep province, Turkey, August 25, 2016. Photo By Umit Bektas/Reuters

Turkish army tanks and military personal are stationed in Karkamis on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern Gaziantep province, Turkey, August 25, 2016. Photo By Umit Bektas/Reuters

A rebel commander on Saturday told Reuters the operation would use al-Rai and Jarabulus as launching points to clear Islamic State fighters from Turkey’s border.

“The operations are to work from al-Rai towards the villages that were liberated to the west of Jarablus,” Colonel Ahmed Osman of the Sultan Murad rebel group told Reuters.

Turkey’s entry into Syria was launched to secure Turkey’s border against the Islamic State and improve security, but also to neutralize advances made by Syrian Kurdish fighters, who are supported by the U.S.

Turkey’s military escalation on Saturday comes on the eve of a bilateral meeting during the G20 summit in China between President Barack Obama and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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