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Turkish military convoy begins entering Syria's Idlib in new operation Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Turkish military convoy begins entering Syria's Idlib in new operation

Turkey preceded its entry with a reconnaissance mission on Monday [AFP]

Date of publication: 13 October, 2017

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Reports of Syrian rebel alliance Tahrir al-Sham escorting a Turkish convoy into Idlib suggests there may be no direct clashes between Turkish troops and the rebel group.

Turkey's new military operation in Syria got stepped up late on Thursday, when a first convoy entered Syria's Idlib province, local rebel fighters reported.

The group included around 30 military vehicles, Reuters cited Free Syrian Army rebel commander Abu Khairo as saying. The convoy was reportedly escorted by fighters from the Syrian rebel alliance Tahrir al-Sham.

"The Turkish army convoy is entering under the protection of Tahrir al-Sham to take positions on the front line with the YPG," another FSA official told the London-based news agency. 

Photographs published by Turkey's state-owned Anadolu news agency at around the same time as the advance showed several ambulances, tankers and military vehicles at a village near the Reyhanli border gate on the Turkish side.

On Saturday, Turkey said that it would be advancing into Idlib in line with a deal struck with Russia and Iran in September to bring about a "de-escalation zone" in Syria's northwest.

Turkish troops began entering Idlib on Monday as part of a reconnaissance mission in the rebel-held province.

De-escalation zones have been designated around Syria to wind down clashes between Syrian regime forces and rebel groups.

When the zones were announced as part of the tripartite deal, Tahrir al-Sham and other rebel groups protested that the plan would only benefit the Syrian regime by carving up the country into areas deemed 'useful' and 'non-useful' by Damascus.

The rebel alliance's cooperation with Turkish forces in Idlib, however, indicates that there may not be direct fighting between them and Turkish troops.

Turkey's operation will be carried out alongside rebels who were involved in Turkey's operation Euphrates Shield last year, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.

The operation aimed to remove Islamic State group fighters from the Turkey-Syria border zone, while also preventing further the Kurdish YPG militia - which Turkey regards as a terror group - from gaining more ground.

Turkish-backed militias and Tahrir al-Sham fighters have previously clashed in Syria as part of intra-rebel battles that have taken place across around Idlib this year.

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