Turkey prepares for massive operation in Syria’s Idlib province

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that Ankara was implementing an agreement reached with Russia and Iran to reduce violence in Syria’s northern Idlib province, in cooperation with the Free Syrian Army, a rebel alliance that is backed by Turkey. The agreement, which aims to implement a de-escalation zone in the rebel-held district, seeks to provide Syrian refugees with a safe-haven from ongoing battles raging between the Syrian military and rebel forces. President Erdogan declared, “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. Today there’s a serious operation in Idlib and it will continue, because we have our brothers there who came to Idlib fleeing violence in Aleppo. We can’t tell them ‘whatever happens, happens. You can either die or survive’. We have to extend a hand to our brothers. Now this step has been taken, and it is under way,” he said. Military experts told TV7, however, that the reality on the ground in Idlib province is far from welcoming to Turkish forces, as Jihadist groups that dominate the territory, primarily the al-Qaeda linked Tahrir al-Sham alliance, vehemently rejects the “de-escalation zones” agreed between Ankara, Moscow and Tehran, “vowing to oppose its implementation by all means necessary.”

 

Meanwhile, Turkey sent military reinforcements to its southern border with Syria’s Idlib province, ahead of what Turkish Defense officials told TV7 “will become a serious operation.” While Turkish officials said that the Free Syrian Army would be the main force of the operation, dozens of tanks and armored vehicles were massing-up next to the Cilvegozu border crossing. The Turkish build up comes following an exchange of fire between Turkish Forces and Jihadist fighters of Tahrir al-Sham, as the extreme-Muslim alliance sought to send a signal to Ankara, releasing a statement warning “any incursion into Idlib would not be a picnic for the alliance’ enemies.”