Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s meeting in Afyonkarahisar, Turkey, on Oct. 7, 2017. Erdogan announced on Saturday that Turkey was conducting an anti-terror operation in Syria‘s Idlib. (Xinhua)
DAMASCUS, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) — The Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) is bracing to enter Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib in the next hours, activists said Saturday.
Ibrahim Idlilbi, the media advisor of the FSA, said it will enter Idlib in the next few hours, adding that the Turkish forces will be in the second line to enter Idlib.
The factions included in the Euphrates Shield operation, which are based in different areas in northern Syria, have upped readiness to the maximum over the past three days in anticipation of the entry to Idlib, where Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which includes the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, is in control of much of Idlib, he added.
The battles against the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, Arabic for the Levant Liberation Committee, is linked to the “awareness of the group, if the committee disbanded, there will be no battles, but if it insisted on confrontation, the response will be very hard,” Idlilbi noted.
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.
Earlier in the day, the Turkish army removed parts of the wall it built between Idlib and the Turkish territory. The removed wall is adjacent to the Bab al-Hawa Border Crossing.
Meanwhile, the HTS said entering Idlib by the Turkish-backed rebels “will not be a picnic.”
The al-Qaida-linked group said its fighters and suicide bombers are awaiting the fighters of the Euphrates Shield.
Entering Idlib by the Turkish-backed rebels and possibly Turkish forces comes in the context of the de-escalation zone deal, which was concluded between Russia and Turkey in the recent sixth round of Astana talks on Syria.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the movement of the Turkish army and Turkish military vehicles was spotted on the border between Idlib and the Turkish territory.
The Turkish army was opening passages enough for the entry of military vehicles into Idlib.
Earlier in the day, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey was conducting an anti-terror operation in Syria’s Idlib.
“Today a landmark operation is underway in Idlib, and it will continue,” Erdogan said at the ruling Justice and Development Party’s meeting in Turkey’s western province of Afyonkarahisar.
“We won’t allow a terror corridor along our Syrian border,” he said, adding that the operation aims to provide security for Idlib.
The Turkish president said the operation in Idlib is the follow-up of the Euphrates Shield Operation in northern Syria, which was launched on Aug. 24, 2016, in a bid to clear Turkey’s border of the Islamic State (IS) militants and other terrorists.
The Turkish army is backing the FSA from within Turkey’s borders, while Russian forces are providing air support to the operation, he said.
Last month, Erdogan said Turkey would deploy troops in Syria’s northwest Idlib as part of a de-escalation agreement brokered by Russia in August.