After US Backing, Turkish Troops Clash with Rebel Forces at Syrian Border

What about Idlib? Why is Idlib critical

In the lead up to the operation, Turkey agreed to set up a so-called de-escalation zone in Idlib in a deal with Iran and Russian Federation.

Relations between the two countries have took a turn for the worse more recently following Erdogan's crackdown on political dissidents, some of whom are German citizens, in the wake of a failed putsch past year.

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.

"Russia is supporting the operation from the air, and our armed forces from inside Turkey's borders", Erdogan added.

The Observatory and another activist-operated news service, Thiqa, meanwhile reported that what appeared to be Turkish troops have entered Syria in a number of vehicles to deploy at an area between Idlib and Aleppo province.

"For now the Free Syrian Army is carrying out the operation there", he said.

Activists also said around 1,500 FSA fighters reached the Turkish city of Antioch which is near the Syrian cities of Salqin and Harem in the northwestern countryside of Idlib.

On one side is a "current that believes it is necessary to engage with Turkey and other countries and no longer be designated" a terrorist group, he said.


Turkish TV channels showed live images of Turkish tanks lined up along the border with Syria, as well as heavy machinery working to remove parts of the border wall between the two countries.

Erdogan also said Turkey would not be allowed to be "cornered by threats from Syria and Iraq".

The newly launched operation is regarded as a strong push for establishing the fourth zone, to be set up in Idlib.

The Turkish army is backing the FSA from within Turkey's borders, while Russian forces are providing air support to the operation, he said.

Many Syrians had fled to Idlib from the neighbouring Aleppo province, which was rocked by heavy fighting a year ago, and Turkey meant to support them, Erdoğan said.

Syria's former Al Qaeda affiliate was once a key ally for many rebels but they are now abandoning it as the jihadists face a Turkey-backed operation in its stronghold.

Much of Idlib is controlled by the HTS alliance, spearheaded by formerly al-Nusra Front.

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