Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu gives a press conference in Ankara on July 25, 2015. The Turkish military carried out today a second wave of strikes against targets controlled by Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Syria and embarked on a new air campaign to bombard camps of Kurdish militants in northern Iraq. AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)
ANKARA—Turkey has reluctantly plunged into the allied fight against the radical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) after it decided to allow US warplanes to use two critical air bases on its soil and engaged in first direct combat against the Salafi group.
The NATO ally decided July 24 to let two the US military use two critical air bases in the country’s south and southeast – in Incirlik and Diyarbakir – for strikes against ISIS.
In the past year, Turkey, neighboring both Syria and Iraq, has been was under increasing western criticism for not contributing sufficiently to the allied war against ISIS, which that has captured large swaths of land in in both , neighboring both Syria and Iraq countries since last summer.
Turkey’s decision to allow the use of air bases in operations against ISIS will allow for more numerous and frequent bombings and surveillance missions in the western fight against the radical group, observers say.
Turkey was dragged into the fighting after an ISIS suicide bomber killed 32 people on a Turkish town bordering Syria on July 20last week. Most victims had gathered at a cultural center organizing charity for Kobane, a Kurdish town across the border.
Turkey replied by detaining hundreds of suspected ISIS members and sympathizers.
And on July 24 Turkey also engaged in its first ever direct cross-border confrontation with ISIS on July 24 when Turkish jets scrambled as tanks and artillery of its Fifth Armored Brigade shelled militants across the border. Turkish fighter jets hit four ISIS targets within Syria, across the border from Kilis Province, without crossing into Syria, Turkish officials said.
The clash came immediately after ISIS fighters fired on a Turkish border outpost in the Kilis, killing one Turkish soldier and wounding five.
The Turkish military said in a statement that its border shelling was a response, and that at least one militant was killed.