Turkey's Erdogan says Syria rebels in new Idlib operation
08 October, 2017, 00:26 | Author: Ora Austin
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on October 7 an operation to retake Idlib, a province under rebel control in northern Syria, amid a reported military buildup on the border between the two countries.
"We have opened up a space in our region with operation Euphrates Shield and now we are making efforts to take a step forward by maintaining security in Idlib", he added.
"The Free Syrian Army ( FSA) is now carrying out the operation and our soldiers haven't yet entered Idlib", Erdogan said, adding that the name of the operation will be announced.
"Today, a very serious operation is ongoing in Idlib and this will continue", Erdogan said in a televised speech in the western city of Afyon.
Idlib and surrounding areas in north-west Syria are among the largest strongholds for rebels fighting the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, but it is now largely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a group led by al-Qaida's former Syria affiliate.
"We will never allow a terror corridor along our borders in Syria", Erdogan said.
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.
Four children were among the dead in the early morning strikes on the Idlib province town of Khan Sheikhun on Friday and Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Gaziantep near the Turkey-Syria border, said the operation was "definitely a significant move by the army" but more details were needed. "We expect that the large-scale operation that has been prepared will be launched perhaps within the next 24 hours", the rebel said.
Turkey has been one of the biggest supporters of rebels fighting Assad during the six-and-a-half year war, but its focus has evolved from ousting him to securing its border.
"When you enter a boxing match, you don't count how many punches you throw", he said.
"The fighters number in the thousands and there are Turkish soldiers participating", he added, without giving further details.
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