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Turkish Air Force bombs IS targets in Syria

BEYLERBEYI 24 July 2015: Turkish fighter jets early on Friday bombed positions of the self-styled Islamic State (IS) inside Syria for the first time, as police arrested hundreds of suspected extremists after a wave of violence.

The air raids against IS targets marked a dramatic hardening of Turkey's attitude towards the group. Ankara had previously been criticised for not doing enough to combat the jihadists.

IS members were among almost 300 suspected extremists arrested in early morning raids in Istanbul and other cities, authorities said. Kurdish militants and Marxist radicals were also detained.

The operations came after the first major cross-border clashes between Turkey and IS jihadists on Thursday which left one Turkish soldier and one militant dead, thrusting Turkey into an open conflict with IS.

The bombing raid was the first by the Turkish Air Force on IS since the extremists began their advance across Iraq and Syria in 2013, seizing control of swathes of territory right up to the Turkish border.

It also came as Turkey, after months of negotiations, finally gave the green light for the US to use a key air base in its south for air strikes against IS.

After taking off from the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir three Turkish F-16 fighter jets dropped four precision guided munitions (PGMs) against three IS targets, a statement from the prime minister's office said.

The Turkish jets dropped their munitions while in Turkish airspace and did not enter Syrian airspace, the CNN-Turk television channel reported.

“An operation was carried out against targets belonging to Daesh inside the Syrian border,” the official statement said, using an Arabic acronym for the group.

The planes struck just before 4:00 am local time and then returned to their base.
On Thursday, one Turkish soldier was killed and two sergeants wounded in the Kilis region by fire from IS militants on the Syrian side of the border. A jihadist was also reported killed.

Turkish tanks then responded by opening fire on IS targets in Syria.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that the Turkish jets were “100 percent” successful in eliminating their targets.

“Turkey will show the strongest reaction to the slightest movement that threatens it,” he said.

“The operation against IS reached its target and will not stop,” he added.

Militants raided in Istanbul

In the Turkish village of Beylerbeyi on the Syria border, near the scene of Thursday's clashes between the military and IS militants, an AFP correspondent described the situation as peaceful.

“I heard the planes tonight, I support the Turkish army so I am staying,“ said village chief Ahmet Solak.

The fighting erupted after the killing of 32 people in a suicide bombing Monday in a Turkish town on the Syrian border that the government blamed on IS.

The attack, which targeted a group of Turkish activists preparing for an aid mission in Syria, sparked an upsurge in violence in Turkey's Kurdish-dominated southeast, where many accuse Turkish authorities of collaborating with IS.

Ankara denies the allegations.

In an apparent bid to crack down on all sources of violence, Turkish police on Friday swooped on suspected members of IS group and the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

A total of 297 people including 37 foreigners were detained, Davutoglu said, adding that the raids took place in 16 provinces across Turkey.

As well as IS and the PKK, the operation targeted suspected members of the PKK's youth wing, The Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H), and the Marxist Revolutionary People's Liberation Party Front (DHKP-C).

A female member of the DHKP-C was killed in Istanbul in clashes with police during the raids, Turkish media said.

Two police had been shot dead in southeast Turkey close to the Syrian border on Wednesday, in an attack claimed by the PKK's military wing which said it wanted to avenge the Suruc bombing.

On Thursday, another policeman was killed in the majority Kurdish city of Diyarbakir.
Meanwhile, the YDG-H claimed it had shot dead an alleged former IS fighter in Istanbul late Tuesday and threatened further assassinations.

'Deal on key air base'

Turkey has been accused of colluding with IS extremists in the hope they might further Ankara's aim of toppling Syria's legitimate President Bashar al-Assad.

Ankara has always vehemently denied the claims but NATO member Turkey has dodged playing a full role in the US-led coalition assisting Kurds fighting IS militants, much to the chagrin of its Western allies.

Now, however, Ankara has finally given the green light to US forces for the use of its Incirlik air base for air strikes against IS in Syria and Iraq, American officials said Thursday.

The Hurriyet daily said the agreement for US planes to use the base envisages a 90 kilometre no-fly zone between the Syrian towns of Marea and Jarabulus to the east.

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