Turkey-backed rebels in new Syria operation - Erdogan

Saul Bowman
October 9, 2017

Turkish-backed forces have started a "serious operation" in Syria's Idlib, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday, but troops had not yet entered the northern province.

"Interactions with the [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] regime is a process that Russian Federation is conducting, as far as Turkey is concerned, we are taking measures and we will continue to take measures in other matters", Erdogan said, though there has been no reaction from Damascus yet concerning the launch of the Turkish new military campaign in Syria.

He said if Turkey had not acted "bombs would fall on our cities".

The state-run Anadolu news agency identified the consulate employee as a male Turkish citizen and said he was arrested late on Wednesday on charges of espionage and attempts to damage the constitutional order and Turkey's government. The zone would be monitored by Turkish soldiers.

Turkey has been moving military equipment to its border with Syria since June 21.

Turkish military has been on the move in Turkey's Hatay province on the border with Syria.

The illegitimate referendum saw Iraqis in KRG-controlled areas - and in a handful of territories disputed between Erbil and Baghdad, including ethnically mixed Kirkuk and Mosul - vote on whether or not to declare independence.

Also Sunday, the Al Qaeda-linked Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, Arabic for the Liberating Levant Committee, which includes the Nusra Front, was said to have destroyed a Turkish tank in a border area between Atama and Sarmada area in northern Idlib.

After his talks with Erdogan in Astana on September 28, Putin said that Moscow and Ankara had reaffirmed readiness to implement the final agreements reached in mid-September in Astana about four de-escalation zones, including the largest one in Idlib.

A Syrian rebel commander told AFP on Saturday that the Ankara-backed operation in Idlib aimed to drive Tahrir Al Sham from the entire province.

Idlib and neighbouring parts of northwest Syria represent the country's biggest and most populous rebel stronghold, home to more than two million people, many of them refugees from other regions.

HTS warned in a statement, without mentioning Turkey, that the "treacherous factions that stand by the side of the Russian occupier" should only enter the area if they want "their mothers to be bereaved, their children to be orphaned, their wives to be widowed".

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