Turkey on Saturday sent six more tanks into Syria as pro-Ankara forces pressed on with de-mining work in a town captured from Islamic State (IS) jihadists this week, an AFP correspondent said.
The Turkish military on Wednesday launched an operation codenamed “Euphrates Shield” inside Syria to oust IS from the border region and also counter advances by a Kurdish militia detested by Ankara.
An AFP photographer in the village of Karkamis on the Turkish side of the border watched six Turkish tanks roll over the frontier into Syria on Saturday.
The Hurriyet daily had reported earlier that the Turkish armed forces had 50 tanks and 380 personnel on the ground in Syria after three days of operations.
Turkish troops are supporting an even larger force of hundreds of Syrian rebels.
The photographer said that sporadic explosions were audible on the Turkish side of the border as the rebels carried out de-mining work in the town of Jarabulus seized from IS on Wednesday.
The state-run Anadolu news agency confirmed in a story datelined from Jarabulus that the rebels were working to destroy explosives left behind by IS militants.
It said that on Friday alone 20 different sets of explosives had been destroyed.
Turkey’s leadership has made clear that the offensive is also aimed at ensuring that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, which has led the fight against IS in the area, stay east of the Euphrates River.
Ankara says that the YPG has failed to stick to a promise made by its US allies that the militia would move back east across the Euphrates following the seizure of the town of Manbij from IS earlier this month.
On Thursday, Turkey shelled positions of the YPG near Manbij but there have been no reports of further activity against the group since then.
Hurriyet said that the Turkish armed forces had been given an order to “strike immediately” should the YPG be seen to make any move towards Jarabulus.
Turkey sees the YPG militia and its Democratic Union Party (PYD) political wing, which have links to Kurdish rebels in Turkey, as “terror groups” bent on carving out an autonomous Kurdish region in Syria.