Turkey's Erdogan says Syria rebels in new Idlib operation

Lucy Bush
October 9, 2017

"Now we are applying the Astana decisions in Idlib", Erdogan said, referring to an agreement announced last month in the Kazakhstan capital.

"Turkey will be providing protection inside Idlib while the security beyond the borders of Idlib will be provided by Russian Federation", he said. "Today there's a serious operation in Idlib and this will continue, because we have to extend a hand to our brothers in Idlib", the president said.

The state-run Anadolu news agency identified the consulate employee as a male Turkish citizen and said he was arrested late on Wednesday on charges of espionage and attempts to damage the constitutional order and Turkey's government.

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

"We will never allow a terror corridor along our borders in Syria", Erdogan said.

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Media reports have pointed to a heavy deployment of military hardware and personnel by the Turkish army to its southern border area in recent weeks. FSA and HTS oppose the Assad regime, but are also battling each another for control of Idlib.

And it has seen its ranks rapidly depleted in advance of the expected Turkish operation, with its coalition now effectively reduced back down to Fateh Al Sham.

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".

"What is also possible is a joint operation between Turkish forces and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) against the terrorists".

He was referring to the US -backed Syrian Kurdish militants that Turkey considers terrorists.

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Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham, commonly known as Tahrir al-Sham, is spearheaded by the former al-Nusra Front, which used to be al-Qaeda's branch in Syria.

Turkey has been one of the biggest supporters of rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the six-and-a-half-year war, but its focus has moved from ousting him to securing its own border.

Turkey's Syria policy "may be serving other goals beyond Idlib", said Hakki Uygur, an analyst at the Center for Iranian Studies in Ankara.

On Saturday, it warned "treacherous factions that stand by the side of the Russian occupier" should only enter the area if they want "their mothers to be bereaved, their children to be orphaned, their wives to be widowed".

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Other reports by Info About Network

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