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Turkish army installs 'observation posts' in Syria's Idlib

Over 100 soldiers, including special forces, and 30 armoured vehicles entered Idlib. [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 October, 2017

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The Turkish army has begun setting up 'observation posts' in Syria's north-western Idlib province as part of their efforts to create a de-escalation zone, the military said on Friday.
The Turkish army has begun setting up "observation posts" in Syria's north-western Idlib province as part of their efforts to create a de-escalation zone, the military said on Friday.

Over 100 soldiers, including special forces, and 30 armoured 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.

"On October 12 (Thursday), we began activities to establish observation posts," the military said in a statement.

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 Turkish army is backing pro-Ankara Syrian rebels, who will need to oust HTS members in the area to allow Iranian, Russian and Turkish forces to implement the de-escalation zone.

The move 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.

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

Three zones are already in place - in Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, in central Homs, and in parts of southern Syria - which are being monitored by Russian military police.

The fourth de-escalation zone includes Idlib but also parts of the neighbouring Latakia, Hama and Aleppo regions.

In late September, Russian and Syrian regime airstrikes killed more than 150 civilians and injured dozens more in over a week of heavy bombings in the opposition-held Idlib province.

September was the deadliest month for Syrians this year, with at least 3,000 people killed following intense bombardments of Idlib and Islamic State group-occupied territories.

Turkey supports Syrian opposition fighter and has called for the removal of Syrian regime president Bashar al-Assad but has worked closely over the last few months with Russia, a key backer of the Assad regime.

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime - in power since 1963 and led by Assad - responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings.

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