Turkey Deploys Troops to Syria’s Rebel-Held Idlib

Turkey Deploys Troops to Syria’s Rebel-Held IdlibTurkey Deploys Troops to Syria’s Rebel-Held Idlib

Turkey announced Friday it had deployed dozens of soldiers in the Syrian province of Idlib as part of its efforts to establish a de-escalation zone to stop fighting in the largely militant-controlled northwestern region.

The deployment also appeared to be aimed at preventing the expansion of Syrian Kurdish militia backed by the United States, but considered by Ankara to be “terrorists”, AFP reported.

Over 100 soldiers, including special forces, and 30 armored vehicles entered Idlib, Turkey’s Hurriyet daily reported on Friday, as it speculated more troops could be sent to the province over the next few days.

In a statement on Friday the military said that it had begun “activities to establish observation posts on October 12 (Thursday)”.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Turkish armed forces had entered Syria with the Free Syrian Army, the name Ankara uses when referring to rebels seeking President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster.

“We said we would come unexpectedly in the night, and last night... we started the operation,” he said during a televised speech in Ankara.

“No one can say to us, ‘why are you doing this’?” he thundered.

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 latest deployment comes after the Turkish army launched a reconnaissance mission on Sunday as part of efforts by Turkey, along with Russia and Iran, to set up the zone in line with accords in Astana peace talks aimed at ending the Syrian civil war.

Turkey says it is backing Syrian rebels in a bid to oust HTS members in the area to allow Iranian, Russian and Turkish forces to implement the zone.

They agreed on four such ceasefire zones in Syria as a prelude to negotiations.


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