Turkish military conduct ground op in Syria to evacuate soldiers from holy place

Turkish army tanks take up position on the Turkish-Syrian border near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province (Reuters / Umit Bektas)

A convoy of Turkish tanks entered Syrian territory to evacuate the tomb of the Ottoman Empire’s forefather and a small garrison guarding it. The military operation launched to rescue the holy place was coordinated with the Kurds.

The only casualty was a Turkish soldier. No details of his death
have been given as the operation was classified, but there were
no reports of engagement with extremist fighters.

The task force of approximately 100 military vehicles, including
39 tanks, crossed the Syrian border to a territory controlled by
Kurdish Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) fighters and
passed through the city of Kobani, recaptured by the YPG from the
Islamic State in January.

READ MORE: Kurds retake Kobani as ISIS admits retreat

The convoy headed to the tomb of Suleyman Shah, the father of the
Ottoman Empire, Osman I. The mausoleum and a small territory of
6.3 hectares around it is situated on the Euphrates River some 35
kilometers from Kobani. According to a treaty signed in 1921,
it’s part of Turkish territory permanently guarded by about 40
Turkish soldiers.

Tomb of Suleyman Shah, Syria (Image from globalresearch.ca)

The operation was launched late on Saturday and by 7 am the
convoy had successfully completed the evacuation, Turkish Prime
Minister Ahmet Davutoglu reported on Twitter.

The prime minister held a media briefing in the capital, Ankara,
reporting that 38 soldiers had been brought back safely to

Turkey requested no permission or assistance for the operation,
yet once the mission began, the allies of the international
anti-Islamic State coalition were informed, said the PM.

READ MORE: 3,000 ISIS infiltrators may enter Turkey, plan to
attack diplomatic targets – report

The reaction of Damascus to Turkey’s unannounced ground operation
in Syria has been harsh, as the Syrian government said it holds
Turkey responsible for “repercussions of this

Syrian national TV has accused Ankara of “flagrant aggression,”
saying the Turkish government had informed the Syrian consulate
in Istanbul about the ground operation, but hadn’t waited for
Syria’s agreement, Reuters reported.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has congratulated both the
Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the government for the evacuation

“On behalf of myself and the nation, I congratulate our
government and armed forces for carrying out this successful
operation, which is beyond appreciation,”
the Turkish
president said in a statement released on Sunday.

“All relics at the Tomb of Süleyman Şah and the Saygı Outpost
and our soldiers who were performing their assignments there have
been brought to our country safe and sound in the Şah Fırat
operation which was carried out during the night,”

A Turkish soldier sits on top of a tank, with the Syrian town of Kobani in the background, as seen from the southeastern town of Suruc close to the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border (Reuters / Umit Bektas)

Usually a convoy going to the tomb with servicemen who rotate
periodically is much smaller, but since the area has become a
battlefield for Kurdish militia fighting the Islamic State
militants, the convoy’s firepower was significantly increased.

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