TURKISH jets attacked Islamic State (Isis) targets in neighbouring Syria yesterday in a major policy shift for the Nato member state.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said three air strikes had “removed potential threats” to Turkey.
But, he added: “It is not limited to one day or to one region. The slightest movement threatening Turkey will be retaliated against in the strongest way possible.”
Mr Davutoglu claimed that the F-16 jets did not violate Syrian airspace but denied reports that Ankara had consulted Damascus before the raid, saying instead that it had cleared the attacks with Nato allies.
But Rami Abdurrahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the air strikes ranged from 200 yards to 2.5 miles inside Syria.
Mr Abdurrahman also contradicted Turkish claims that 35 Isis militants were killed, saying: “Isis is imposing a blackout on its losses, although there aren’t large losses.”
The air strikes were in retaliation for Thursday’s attack by Isis forces on a Turkish army border outpost killing one soldier, and came three days after an alleged Isis suicide bomber massacred 32 members of a socialist youth league in the border city of Suruc.
A government statement said the airstrikes were approved at a meeting later that day.
In a further development, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed that Turkey had agreed to let the US use its airbase at Incirlik for attacks on Syria — ostensibly against Isis — “within a certain framework.”
He did not elaborate on the agreement, which a US official said was reached during a phone call this week with President Barack Obama.
Both developments appeared to mark a major shift in Turkish policy towards Isis. Ankara has been reluctant to act against the Islamic extremist group in neighbouring Syria and Iraq, and has even been accused of supporting it.
In May, Reuters reported allegations that Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation had allowed arms and recruits to cross the border into Syria, strengthening Isis and other anti-government forces.
Washington had been pressing Ankara for months to allow operations from the base, which it has occupied since the 1950s and used to launch missions during the 1991 Gulf war and the 2003 Iraq war.