Turkish tanks deployed to Syria border as Islamic State advances

Jihadi forces reported to be within five kilometers of key border town, Turkish troops return fire

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Turkish army tanks take up positions near the Syrian border on September 29, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/BULENT KILIC)
Turkish army tanks take up positions near the Syrian border on September 29, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/BULENT KILIC)

Turkey deployed tanks and armored vehicles along a section of its border with Syria on Monday to face off against Islamic State forces whose stray shells fell into Turkish territory during an attack on a border town.

Some 15 tanks took up positions on a hill near a military base opposite the besieged town of Kobani that IS has been trying to capture from outgunned Syrian-Kurdish forces for over a week, Reuters reported.

During the course of the fighting two errant shells hit Turkey, provoking return fire from Turkish units.

On Monday Islamic State jihadists advanced to within five kilometers (three miles) of the key Kurdish border town, known also Ain al-Arab, a monitor said.

The jihadists fired a volley of rockets that hit the town center, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that it was the closest the militants had come since they began advancing on the town nearly two weeks ago.

Over 100,000 Kurds have fled the from the town into Turkey in the face of the IS advance.

On Sunday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his country may no longer be able to stay out of the fight against IS jihadists, who have conquered large areas of Syria and Iraq, drawing a US-led military response by Western powers.

Turkey has for months frustrated the West with its cautious position against IS, but there appears to have been a sea change in its policy following Erdogan’s trip last week to the United States.

“We will hold discussions with our relevant institutions this week. We will definitely be where we need to be,” Erdogan said in a keynote address to a World Economic Forum meeting in Istanbul.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced on Sunday that the government would send motions requesting extended mandates for military action in Iraq and Syria on Monday.

AFP contributed to this report.

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