- The Washington Times - Friday, July 24, 2015

Turkey has joined the fight against the Islamic State, with three Turkish F-16s bombing terrorist assembly points on the outskirts of Syria early Friday, according to media reports.

The strikes — the first Turkey has publicly acknowledged taking against the Islamic State, also known as ISIL — were launched in Turkey and did not cross into Syrian air space, according to a Yahoo News report.

The strikes come as Turkey also opened up two bases to U.S. planes. The access to Turkish bases puts U.S. war planes just 250 miles from the Islamic State headquarters in Raqqah, Syria, which had previously been up to a 1,200-mile journey, Defense One reported.

“We have decided to further deepen our cooperation in the fight against ISIL. Access to Turkish bases such as Incirlik air base will increase the coalition’s operational efficiency for counter-ISIL efforts, including airstrikes,” Capt. Jeff Davis, Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement to Defense One.

Turkey has been reluctant to get involved in the fight against the Islamic State, saying that unseating Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should take precedence over defeating the terrorist group. But a growing population of Syrian refugees in Turkey and several recent Islamic State-led attacks on Turks have pushed the country to take a more active role in the battle, The New York Times reported.

• Jacqueline Klimas can be reached at jklimas@washingtontimes.com.

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