Turkey's Erdogan says Syria rebels in new Idlib operation


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday announced pro-Ankara Syrian militants were launching a new military operation in Syria's northwestern Idlib province, allegedly to push out Takfiris controlling the region.

NTV reported that Erdogan told reporters after his speech that Russian Federation was backing the operation from the air, while Turkish soldiers were supporting it from inside Turkish borders.

"Turkish forces are not on Syrian soil yet", Abdulrahman said, adding that army was firing artillery shells across the border, while the rebel alliance attacked a Turkish military base.

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.

On Sunday morning, HTS fighters opened fire on Turkish forces who were removing a section of the border wall with bulldozers, eyewitnesses and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said. Turkey has threatened to clear the province of Kurdish forces that it regards as belonging to a terrorist group with links to the PKK, which has long battled for autonomy in Turkey's southeast.

"We are now in the process of taking further steps towards securing Idlib after expanding the Euphrates Shield Operation".

The Observatory reported "heavy exchanges of fire", but said the incident did not appear to mark the start of the operation Erdogan described on Saturday.

Erdogan also said Turkey would not be allowed to be "cornered by threats from Syria and Iraq".

The plan to enforce a de-escalation zone in Idlib involves deploying Turkish special forces and observation points, according to Sejari, from the Turkish-backed Al-Mutasim Brigades.

Many Syrians had fled to Idlib from the neighbouring Aleppo province, which was rocked by heavy fighting past year, and Turkey meant to support them, Erdoğan said.

The Syrian Observatory in the last week has repeatedly accused Syria and Russian Federation of carrying out deadly air strikes in Idlib province with heavy civilian losses. Turkey, however, has backed rebels seeking Assad's ouster.

This photo released Sunday, Oct 8, 2017 by the al-Qaida-affiliated Ibaa News Agency, that is consistent with independent AP reporting, purports to show al-Qaida-linked fighters from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham or Levant Liberation Committee walking inside the Syrian village of Abu Dali in Idlib province, after they captured it from Syrian troops.