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Erdogan: Turkey backing FSA rebels in new Idlib push

08 October 2017
Erdogan: Turkey backing FSA rebels in new Idlib push

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that Turkey and Syrian rebel groups it backs are starting a military operation in Syria's Idlib province with the aim of pushing out militants from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) that control the region.

Erdogan said last month that Turkey would deploy troops in Syria's northwest Idlib province as part of a so-called de-escalation agreement brokered by Russian Federation in August.

"We will never allow the formation of a terror corridor along our border with Syria", he said, adding that new initiatives after the Idlib operation may be taken. Today we have a serious operation in Idlib and this will continue.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced Turkey is conducting a "serious" operation against extremist groups in Syria's northwestern Idlib province with anti-Assad rebels.

Much of Idlib is controlled by the HTS alliance, spearheaded by formerly al-Nusra Front. "The goal of the operation is to liberate Idlib fully from Tahrir al-Sham".

Reports suggest a large military deployment on Turkey's southern border and residents near the Bab al-Hawa crossing told Reuters that a section of frontier wall had been removed.

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

"We wish them luck", Bahçeli also said.

Air raids on insurgent-held towns in that area in recent days were intense, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, reported.

"Now this step has been taken, and it is underway", he said, adding that Turkish forces were not yet involved and that it was a rebel operation so far. Turkey, however, has backed rebels seeking Assad's ouster.

Syrian rebel officials from factions which have fought alongside Turkey in Euphrates Shield said they were preparing to enter the area with the backing of Turkish forces. "We expect that the large-scale operation that has been prepared will be launched perhaps within the next 24 hours", the rebel said.

Idlib's population has ballooned to at least two million as thousands of civilians and combatants have left areas seized by the Syrian army in other parts of the country, with the help of Russian jets and Iran.

Erdoğan was also asked about whether the method to be used in the Idlib operation will be similar to the Euphrates Shield Operation.