Erdogan: FSA in New Idlib Operation

Kerry Wise
October 8, 2017

Rebels backed by Turkey are carrying out a new operation in Syria's north-western Idlib province, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says.

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.

It was earlier reported that Turkey completed preparations for new military operations in Syria and military operations in Idlib may start in the coming days.

"There is a serious operation in Idlib at the moment and this will continue", Erdoğan said during the 26th semi-annual "consultation and assessment camp" of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on October 7, as he added that the operation aims to provide Idlib's security.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced Turkey is conducting a "serious" operation against extremist groups in Syria's northwestern Idlib province with anti-Assad rebels.

Erdogan said that Russian Federation is backing the operation from the air and Turkish soldiers from inside the Turkish border.

Idlib is largely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a group led by al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate, which ousted more moderate rebels in recent months. "The goal of the operation is to liberate Idlib fully from Tahrir al-Sham".

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Appearing to confirm this, Erdogan said: "Idlib is a region where we will provide protection in the inside and Russian Federation on the outside".

It has been a formidable military force since early in the war, when it transitioned from bomb attacks in cities to guerrilla conflict with the Syrian army, fighting alongside many other factions.

"Are they going to hand over their weapons - we don't think this is going to be the case - or are they going to fight against the FSA and the Turkish army in the near future?" said Ahelbarra.

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.

"The Free Syrian Army, with support from Turkish troops, is in full readiness to enter the area but until this moment there is no movement", said Sejari, the Liwa al-Mutasem official. Turkey, however, has backed rebels seeking Assad's ouster. It said the operation was yet to formally begin.

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