Syria war: Turkey-backed rebels attack jihadists in Idlib

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

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

Calling the operation a "new step" to establish security in Idlib, he promised Turkey would not desert civilians there.

Turkey earlier this year wrapped up its months-long Euphrates Shield operation in Aleppo province that involved both the Turkish army and Syrian rebels.

Syrian rebel fighters are launching a major military operation backed by Turkish forces into a northwestern area of Syria largely controlled by jihadists, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.

The US maintains that the group is still linked to al Qaeda, however.

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"We will never allow a terror corridor along our borders in Syria", Erdogan said.

Saying that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) are backing the operation from inside the Turkish border, Erdoğan noted that Russian Federation is providing aerial support.

"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.

The move comes as Turkey along with Russian Federation and Iran prepare to set up a so-called "de-escalation" zone in Idlib in line with accords in peace talks in Astana aimed at ending the Syrian civil war.

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Residents near the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey in Syria sent Reuters photographs of what they said was a section of the frontier wall being removed by the Turkish authorities.

The two leaders also stressed the importance of preserving Iraq and Syria's territorial integrity in their phone call, presidential sources said, Daily Sabah reported. "We expect that the large-scale operation that has been prepared will be launched perhaps within the next 24 hours", the rebel said.

"We wish them luck", Bahçeli also said. "The goal of the operation is to liberate Idlib fully from Tahrir al-Sham".

The de-escalation zones will be patrolled by military observers, but Idlib is by far the most significant.

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It has been a formidable military force since early in the war, when it transitioned from bomb attacks in cities to guerrilla conflict with the Syrian army, fighting alongside many other factions. Turkey, however, has backed rebels seeking Assad's ouster.

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