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Turkey deploys tanks to border as lawmakers discuss anti-IS action

THE LEVANT – Turkey on Monday deployed tanks and armoured vehicles to reinforce its border with Syria amid escalating Islamic State violence, as parliament is set to consider whether to authorise military action against IS jihadists.

Turkey on Monday deployed tanks and armoured vehicles to reinforce its border with Syria amid escalating violence by the Islamic State group, as parliament was set to consider whether to authorise military action against the jihadists.

The army moved tanks and armoured vehicles to the border town of Mursitpinar, which lies across from the key Kurdish town of Ain al-Arab, after some stray bullets hit Turkish villages, sparking retaliation from Turkey’s military under its “rules of engagement”.

The government said Monday it would shortly submit motions to parliament authorising the armed forces to take action in Iraq and Syria, so Ankara can join the US-led coalition against the IS fighters.

“The motions have not yet been sent to parliament. They may come tomorrow (Tuesday),” parliamentary speaker Cemil Cicek was quoted as saying by NTV television.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said the motions will be debated on Thursday.

The government hopes parliament will approve the military action before the Muslim Eid holiday which begins on Saturday.

On Monday, Erdogan said the Islamic State — blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Ankara since October 2013 — has nothing to do with Islam, which he said “does not legitimise such savagery or violence”.

“Attributing terrorist actions in the Middle East to Islam means nothing other than distorting the truth,” he said in a speech in Istanbul. “Our religion is a religion of peace.”

In a rare move, Turkey’s top general, Necdet Ozel, will speak to the cabinet on Tuesday followed by a security summit chaired by Erdogan.

Turkey has so far accepted over 160,000 Syrian refugees who fled the IS assault near the town of Ain al-Arab, and has called for creating a safe buffer zone to help civilians inside Syria.

Turkey has already taken in more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees who fled the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Up to 15,000 refugees crossed to Turkey on Monday, a Turkish official told AFP, saying that the border was “open to civilians, as well as to their cars and animals.”

On Monday, at least three mortar shells fired from Syria landed in Turkish soil — up to two kilometres (1.2 miles) from the border gate at Mursitpinar, an AFP photographer reported. They caused no damage or casualties.

But a mortar shell that hit a house in a Turkish village on the Syrian border late Sunday left three people wounded, the military said on its website, adding that the armed forces had responded in kind.

Turkey not in US-led coalition 

Turkey had refused to join a broad anti-IS coalition led by the United States while dozens of its citizens including diplomats and children were being held by IS militants having been abducted from the Turkish consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

After securing their freedom in a top-secret operation which reportedly resulted in the release of 50 IS fighters, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the country’s position had changed, signalling a more robust stance towards the IS group.

“We will hold discussions with our relevant institutions this week. We will definitely be where we need to be,” Erdogan said on Sunday.

“We cannot stay out of this.”

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