Turkey on Monday deployed tanks and armoured vehicles to reinforce its border with Syria amid escalating violence by the Islamic State group, as parliament was set to consider whether to authorise military action against the jihadists.
The army on Monday moved tanks and armoured vehicles to the border town of Mursitpinar, which lies across from the key Kurdish town of Ain al-Arab, after some stray bullets hit Turkish villages, sparking retaliation from Turkey’s military under its “rules of engagement”.
The government said it would shortly submit motions to parliament authorising the armed forces to take action in Iraq and Syria, so Ankara can join the US-led coalition against the IS fighters.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said the motions will be debated on Thursday.
Turkey had refused to join a broad anti-IS coalition led by the US while dozens of its citizens, including diplomats and children, were being held by IS militants having been abducted from the Turkish consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
After securing their freedom in a top-secret operation that reportedly resulted in the release of 50 IS fighters, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the country’s position had changed, signalling a more robust stance towards the IS group.
On Monday, Erdogan said the Islamic State – blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Ankara since October 2013 – has nothing to do with Islam, which he said “does not legitimise such savagery or violence”.
Turkey has so far accepted over 160,000 Syrian refugees who fled the IS assault near the town of Ain al-Arab, and has called for creating a safe buffer zone to help civilians inside Syria.
Turkey has already taken in more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees who fled the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Up to 15,000 refugees crossed to Turkey on Monday, a Turkish official told AFP, saying that the border was “open to civilians, as well as to their cars and animals”.