Syrian rebels backed by Turkey have taken control of the Syrian town of Jarablus from Islamic State fighters to prevent Kurdish forces from seizing a new swathe of territory on Turkey's southern border, Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik said. In an interview with Turkey's NTV channel on Thursday, the minister also said Turkish-backed rebels were "cleansing" Jarablus of Islamic State, who had controlled the strategic town. Syrian rebels backed by Turkish special forces, tanks and warplanes entered one of Islamic State's last strongholds on the Turkish-Syrian border on Wednesday, in Turkey's first major U.S.-backed incursion into its southern neighbor.
Syrian rebels who seized Jarablus from Islamic State in a Turkey-backed operation on Wednesday have advanced up to 10 km (6 miles) south of the border town, rebel sources and a group monitoring the war said on Thursday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Kurdish-backed forces opposed by Ankara had meanwhile gained up to 8 km (5 miles) of ground northwards, apparently seeking to pre-empt advances by the rebels. The Turkey-supported operation aims to clear Islamic State from the Syrian-Turkish frontier in an operation Ankara says is targeting both the jihadists and the Kurdish YPG militia, which is part of a U.S.-backed alliance also fighting Islamic State.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday that Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters were retreating to the east of the Euphrates river, Turkish Foreign Ministry sources said. In an early morning call, the two emphasized that the fight against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq would continue together, the sources said. Syrian rebels backed by Turkish special forces, tanks and warplanes entered one of Islamic State's last strongholds on the Turkish-Syrian border on Wednesday, in Turkey's first major U.S.-backed incursion into its southern neighbor.