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Turkish troops prepare to enter Idlib province, Syria

Turkish troops prepare to enter Idlib province, Syria

Idlib is one of four so-called "de-escalation" zones under a deal brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran in May. The necessary step was taken and it is ongoing.

On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that a major military operation was underway in the province of Idlib.

The Turkish president said the major offensive was the follow-up of the so-called Euphrates Shield Operation in northern Syria, which was launched in August a year ago without granting any permission from Damascus, in a declared objective of clearing Turkey's southern border of the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group.

Several mortar shells landed near the Bab al-Hawa border crossing between Syria and Turkey, believed to be fired from the Turkish side of the border.

The Turkish army was opening passages enough for the entry of military vehicles into Idlib.

The US maintains that the group is still linked to al Qaeda, however.

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

"We will absolutely not allow the creation of a terror corridor along our borders", said Erdogan in his speech.




Turkish TV channels showed live images of Turkish tanks lined up along the border with Syria, as well as heavy machinery working to remove parts of the border wall between the two countries.

A senior official of the Liwa al-Mutasem group says Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army says groups in the Euphrates Shield campaign are ready to cross into northwest Syria.

The newly launched operation is regarded as a strong push for establishing the fourth zone, to be set up in Idlib.

Security in Idlib will be provided by Turkey with Russia, Erdogan said Saturday, without elaborating further.

Despite months of relative calm in Idlib, Syrian regime and Russian forces have in recent weeks carried out air raids across the province, killing dozens of civilians, according to the Observatory.

Syria's former Al Qaeda affiliate was once a key ally for many rebels but they are now abandoning it as the jihadists face a Turkey-backed operation in its stronghold.

Idlib had been a centre of fighting between Russian Federation and Iran-backed regime forces and Turkey-backed opposition forces until July this year when Hayat Tahrir Al Sham took control of a large part of the province.

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