Turkish President Announces 'Serious Operation' In Northern Syria

Turkish President Announces 'Serious Operation' In Northern Syria

Erdogan said last month that Turkey would deploy troops in Idlib province as part of the de-escalation agreement brokered by Russian Federation in August.

"In fact, the resolution of the Idlib situation would mean the untangling of the Syrian knot", Mahalli said. "There is a serious operation in Idlib today and it is going to continue", the president said.

The leader of opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) on Saturday backed the stance of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Syria's Idlib province. Turkish soldiers have not yet crossed the border, he added.

"We can now say that all military actions are being coordinated by these two parties", Oytun Orhan, an expert on the Middle East, told Sputnik Turkey.

Turkey's NTV, a private television station, reported an exchange of fire at the border area, quoting "military sources". Turkish shelling hit near a camp for displaced civilians by the border, prompting some to flee the area, it said, and HTS fighters also shelled a Turkish position near the Bab al- Hawa border crossing.

Idlib and swaths of land in Syria's northern and northwestern regions are largely held by the Takfiri Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terrorist outfit, spearheaded by a former al-Qaeda affiliate that changed its name a year ago from the Nusra Front to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.

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In a statement, the groups said that attacking Idlib would "not be a picnic" and added that "the lions of jihad and martyrdom are waiting to pounce". "Russia is supporting the operation from the air, and our armed forces from inside Turkey's borders".

Idlib is largely held by the Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham alliance, which was not part of the talks and has rejected the implementation of a de-escalation zone.

Airstrikes were reported in parts of Idlib on Saturday, follows a month of heavy bombardment of the province by Russian Federation and the Syrian regime killing scores of civilians. "There are millions of people in Idlib, and we will protect Idlib", Erdoğan said.

Idlib became one of the most heavily populated areas in Syria after the Assad regime wrestled control of Aleppo from rebels in late 2016, driving displaced Syrians to the province.

Turkish commando units and armor are expected to take part in any offensive in Idlib, although it is believed Free Syrian Army fighters will make up the bulk of the force entering the province.

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