Turkish tanks enter Syria in big push to oust ISIS from last border stronghold

Turkish tanks cross into Syria to fight ISIS
(Image credit: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

Early Wednesday, Turkish-backed Syrian rebels and Turkish tanks and minesweepers crossed into Syria in a campaign to push the Islamic State out of the border town Jarablus, one of ISIS's last strongholds on the Turkey-Syria border, Turkey's Anadolu news agency reports. The offensive, backed by U.S. warplanes and advised by U.S. special operations forces, is aimed at shutting off ISIS's supply route to its de facto capital, Raqqa. Turkey has been shelling ISIS positions around Jarablus for two days to prepare for the push, and its forces crossed into Syria hours before U.S. Vice President Joe Biden lands in Ankara to meet with Turkish leaders to smooth over tensions that arose during Turkey's recent failed coup.

This is Turkey's first major offensive against ISIS, and The Wall Street Journal suggests three reasons why the country is getting involved now: Ankara wants to demonstrate that its military is still strong after the post-coup purge of officers; retaliation for the suspected ISIS suicide bombing of a wedding on Saturday; and to prevent Kurdish fighters, who have been successfully pushing ISIS back for months now, from claiming the town for themselves, thus gaining more territory along the Turkish border. Turkey reluctantly allowed Kurdish fighters to take part in the offensive, The Journal reports, with the expectation they will leave the town after ISIS is outside.

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