Allies desert Syria jihadists before Turkey-backed battle

Allies desert Syria jihadists before Turkey-backed battle

On Saturday, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Syrian rebels would stage a military operation in Idlib "to ensure security".

Turkish troops are expected to be deployed inside Idlib with Russians stationed around the city, and the collaboration emphasizes the closer ties between Erdogan and Putin, a relationship viewed with concern by Turkey's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies. (2017). Turkey starting "serious operation" in Syria's Idlib, says Erdogan. Turkish soldiers have not yet crossed the border, he added.

"We will never allow a terror corridor along our Syrian border", Erdogan said.

Some mortar rounds slammed near the Deir Hassan camp for Syrian displaced people on the border area in northern Idlib, amid a state of fear among the people there.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel came under enormous pressure from her rivals to sharpen tone towards Turkey, particularly due to the arrests of around 10 German citizens, including a reporter and a human rights activist, for alleged support for terrorist organisations.

Idlib and swaths of land in Syria's northern and northwestern regions are largely held by the Takfiri Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terrorist outfit, spearheaded by a former al-Qaeda affiliate that changed its name past year from the Nusra Front to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.

Sejari said the operation aims to deploy Turkish-backed opposition fighters in the province now dominated by al-Qaida-linked militants.

Turkey has been one of the biggest supporters of rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the six-and-a-half-year war, but its focus has moved from ousting him to securing its own border.

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HTS has pledged to keep fighting Syrian regime forces and their allies, casting doubt on the de-escalation agreement, but Ankara has worked to lure militants from it, and two groups have defected from the alliance.

Puzzlingly, the ministry also said three senior IS commanders including Omar al-Shishani had been confirmed dead as a result of an earlier Russian strike. "We will continue to take other initiatives after the Idlib operation".

Moscow has been carrying out air raids in support of its ally Damascus targeting both ISIL in Deir Az Zor province and rival groups led by al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate in Idlib province in the northwest.

Sporadic clashes have been reported on Sunday between the Turkish forces and the Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham rebels on the Turkish-Syrian border, media reports said.

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"As for the Russians, they will not have a role in the areas of our control at all".

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