Turkey says major operation underway in Syria's Idlib

Violet Powell
October 8, 2017

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed Syria and Iraq's territorial integrity with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron over the phone Saturday, according to a Turkish Presidency source.

HTS is not party to a deal brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran for the safe zone in the province, one of four such "de-escalation" zones across Syria.

Speaking at AK party's camp in Afyonkarahisar, President Erdogan said, "We are now striving to move forward with a new step towards ensuring safety of Idlib in field of Euphrates shield operation. There is a serious operation in Idlib today and it is going to continue", the president said.

Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups in the Euphrates Shield campaign that Ankara launched in northern Syria previous year are ready to cross into northwest Syria from Turkey, Mustafa Sejari, a senior official in the Liwa Al-Mutasem group said.

Erdogan said that Russian Federation is backing the operation from the air and Turkish soldiers from inside the Turkish border.

In July Tahrir al-Sham seized land around the Bab al-Hawa border crossing between Syria and Turkey, bringing much of the frontier area inside Syrian under its control.

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The president also said that Russian Federation and Turkey are acting jointly regarding the protection of people in Idlib, while adding that Turkey will provide security for Idlib's interiors and Russian Federation will protect the outer and border areas.

The agreement came despite Russian Federation and Iran backing President Assad and Turkey wanting him gone.

It has been a formidable military force since early in the war, when it transitioned from bomb attacks in cities to guerrilla conflict with the Syrian army, fighting alongside many other factions.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) monitor said Turkish army cranes had begun removing sections of the security wall Turkey has built on the border in preparation for an incursion.

"When you enter a boxing match, you don't count how many punches you throw", he said. Turkey, however, has backed rebels seeking Assad's ouster.

"The fighters number in the thousands and there are Turkish soldiers participating", he added, without giving further details.

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