The Turkish government has faced strong criticism, including criticism from its own Kurdish citizens, for not doing enough to fight ISIS and help Kurds in Syria. A massive suicide bombing attributed to ISIS earlier this week greatly exacerbated these tensions.
ISIS seems to have forced Turkey’s hand with a cross-border skirmish between a small group of militants and a Turkish unit on Thursday, in which one Turkish soldier was killed, along with an ISIS fighter. The Turks responded first with an artillery barrage and then airstrikes on three ISIS positions in Syria.
“Friday’s airstrikes were carried out by three F-16s that took off from an air base in southeastern Turkey,” reports CNN.
The report continues:
The Turkish airstrikes Friday hit two ISIS bases and a gathering point, the Turkish Prime Minister’s office said. The targets were chosen based on intelligence reports suggesting a buildup of weapons and explosives in the area, a Turkish official told CNN on condition of anonymity.
Although the Turkish government long ago passed a resolution allowing military action against Syria, these particular targets were reportedly hit without penetrating Syrian airspace.
Turkish officials did not rule out further airstrikes, and declared themselves willing to violate Syria’s airspace if necessary. However, they expressed continuing reluctance to become embroiled in the bloody chaos of Syria’s civil war, where ISIS is a major player. Until now, Turkey has generally been more eager to see the Assad regime deposed than worried about the Islamic State or other terrorist groups lined up against him on the battlefield.
One analyst suggested to CNN that Turkey might be worried about the coming shift in regional power as an emboldened, enriched Iran throws more weight behind its client Bashar Assad, not to mention longstanding fears about the Kurds forming a state that could take a chunk out of Turkey.
The Kurdish news agency Rudaw sees welcome signs that this week’s suicide bombing in Turkey might have angered the government as much as it has infuriated the Kurds, prompting the Erdogan government to get serious about tackling ISIS. Rudaw reports increased border security spending by Turkey, a significant shift of forces to the Syrian frontier (including the bulk of Turkey’s drone surveillance aircraft), and a quickening pace of arrests against suspected ISIS militants and recruiters.