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Turkey evacuates border near IS-controlled Syrian town

Residents of Karkamis told to leave amid reports Ankara-backed rebels are preparing to seize Syrian town of Jarabulus from Islamic State
Karkamis has been hit by several mortar bombs (AA)

Turkey on Tuesday ordered residents to leave a Turkish border town that lies opposite the Islamic State-controlled Syrian town of Jarabulus, television reported.

Police warned residents through loudspeakers to evacuate "for safety reasons" from Karkamis which was hit by a series of mortar bombs fired from IS-held areas.

Reports have also suggested Ankara-backed rebels are preparing a major operation to seize Jarabulus from IS.

MEE's Turkey correspondent Suraj Sharma said the evacuation represented a "precautionary measure" to prevent civilian casualties.

However, Turkey has never evacuated an entire town during the Syrian war, despite the border areas being regularly hit by shelling.

Turkish forces have been pounding IS positions in retaliation for shells fired into Turkish territory in recent days. Artillery shells also fell on the Turkish border town of Kilis on Tuesday.

Local media also reported Turkish tanks being deployed in the vicinity of Karkamis. 

Turkish officials have kept silent on media claims that the FSA will be allowed to use Turkish territory to wrest Jarablus from IS control.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, the foreign minister, earlier promised to give "all kinds of support" to push IS out of Jarabulus.

"We do not want Daesh to exist in Iraq and Syria," he said.

In an interview with NTV television, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said Turkey was monitoring the Syrian side of the border "as a national security matter".

"What we have said, since the beginning, is that having Jarabulus or any other city held by IS is unacceptable," he said.

Any move by the FSA could put them on a collision course with the militia of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) which Ankara vehemently opposes and which also has designs on Jarabulus.

Turkey regards the PYD as a terrorist group, although Washington sees its People's Protection Units (YPG) militia as the most effective fighting force against the militants.

Joe Biden, the US vice-president, is due in Ankara Wednesday to meet Turkey's leadership, with agreeing a unified strategy on Syria set to be a crucial issue.

Turkey has received officials from regional powers in the last few days. The president of the Kurdish region of Iraq, Massoud Barzani, and Hossein Jaberi Ansari, Iran's deputy foreign minister, are both in the Turkish capital today.