Turkey has launched a cross-border operation in Syria against the Daesh terrorist organization, Turkish authorities told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday.
The operation comes in response to terrorist attacks on Turkish soil and artillery fire by Daesh militants in Syria on targets inside Turkey.
Turkish Armed Forces is responding to artillery fire and carrying out airstrikes against Daesh elements in Jarablus -- part of Aleppo governorate -- in a retaliatory strike, officials said.
The operation is in line with the country’s rights to self-defense borne out of international treaties and a mandate given to the Armed Forces by the Turkish parliament in 2014 and extended for another year in September 2015, according to officials.
At the time, the mandate said threats to national security along the southern border increased with a significant rise in terrorist elements in Syria and Iraq.
It also cautioned against mass migration risks that soon materialized when Turkey last year was faced with tens of thousands of civilians fleeing Aleppo amid a scourge of violence, in addition to the millions of refugees already housed in camps and cities across the country. The humanitarian situation in Aleppo has deteriorated to alarming new lows since then, prompting renewed zeal for international action by the United Nations amid a dysfunctional aid delivery mechanism clogged by a failure of diplomacy.
Int'l law justifies Jarablus operation
United Nations resolutions on the fight against Daesh bolster Turkey's rights for conducting Wednesday’s cross-border operation.
In resolution 2249, unanimously adopted last November, the 15-member Security Council condemned in the strongest terms Daesh’s “gross, systematic and widespread abuses of human rights, as well as its destruction and looting of cultural heritage”.
Those responsible for terrorist acts or human rights violations -- including Daesh, Nusra Front and al-Qaeda-linked groups -- must be held accountable, the body said.
Ankara officials say Turkey is engaged in an act of legitimate self-defense, which is one of the two exceptions to the inviolability of national sovereignty enshrined in the UN Charter. The second is a UN Security Council mandate for military action.
According to Article 51 of Chapter 7, in the case of an armed attack against a member state, that state has the right for self or collective defense until the UN Security Council has taken measures to maintain international peace and security, and no UN article can nullify that inherent right.
Wednesday’s operation, which began at around 4 a.m. local time (0100 GMT), is aimed at clearing the Turkish borders of terrorist groups, helping to enhance border security and supporting the territorial integrity of Syria, officials said.
Preventing a new flow of migrants and delivering aid to the region’s civilian population in need are also among the goals, they added.
The move comes after a series of mortar bombs landed in a residential Turkish area along the Syrian border beginning Tuesday morning, security sources said. There have also been a number of deadly Daesh attacks in Turkey over the past two years that killed scores of civilians and security officials.
There were no injuries Tuesday in Karkamis, which lies approximately 1 kilometer across the frontier from Jarablus, where Free Syrian Army forces are fighting to take control of the city from Daesh.
Operations by Turkish Armed Forces, which has been actively fighting Daesh, have significantly contributed to ongoing efforts of U.S.-backed international coalition against the terror group.
Another important issue that the Security Council highlights is the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters. The Council took steps in 2014 concerning the issue and has since then issued decisions aimed at stemming the flow of fighters joining terror groups.
The fact that approximately 25,000 foreign terrorist fighters from more than 100 nations have joined Daesh as a consequence of the conflict in Syria and Iraq, has been included in Security Council documents.
To find a solution for this problem, it was stressed multiple times that source countries should designate the foreign terrorist fighters while they are within the country and not allow them to leave.
Turkey has taken crucial steps in that regard and placed more than 37,000 individuals on a no-entry list between 2011 and February 2016. More than 3,000 foreigners who had entered Turkey through illegal ways, were deported for suspected ties to terrorist organizations.
Also, 7,500 foreigners were checked by Risk Analysis Centers established, with more than 1,700 sent back to their countries of origin.
In addition, as part of operations by Turkish law enforcement officials against terrorist groups, 2,433 individuals — of whom 1,030 are foreigners — were detained and 808 of the total number were arrested for having links to Daesh.
Turkey also increased its physical security precautions along its border with Syria.