Syria war: Turkey-backed rebels attack jihadists in Idlib

Operation Idlib

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday "a serious operation" was beginning in Syria's Idlib and a Syrian rebel official said his group was preparing to enter the area with the backing of Turkish forces.

HTS is not party to a deal brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran for the safe zone in the province, one of four such "de-escalation" zones nationwide.

"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.

Earlier in the day, Erdogan announced to launch a "serious operation" in Syria's Idlib, while Turkey and Russian Federation jointly plan to set up "de-escalation" zones in Syria.

Erdogan said the operation, part of a de-escalation deal agreed between Turkey, Iran and Russian Federation, will involve Free Syrian Army groups crossing into Idlib supported by Turkish soldiers from inside Turkey's borders.

Idlib and surrounding areas of northwest Syria are among the largest bastions for rebel groups fighting Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, but have increasingly fallen under the sway of militant factions. "The goal of the operation is to liberate Idlib fully from Tahrir al-Sham".

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The incursion is being carried out after Iran and Russian Federation, which back President Bashar al-Assad, and Turkey, which supports the rebels, agreed last month to reduce fighting between insurgents and the government in the northwest.

Tahrir al-Sham is well entrenched in the border area in Idlib and maintains a big military presence in nearby towns, a local rebel and a resident of a town near Bab al-Hawa said.

It said in the statement that Idlib would "not be a picnic" for them and added "the lions of jihad and martyrdom are waiting to pounce".

The two leaders also stressed the importance of preserving Iraq and Syria's territorial integrity in their phone call, presidential sources said, Daily Sabah reported.

Erdogan said that many Syrians had fled to Idlib from the neighbouring Aleppo province, which was rocked by heavy fighting past year, and Turkey was not going to let them down.

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

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