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Turkey Crosses the Border Into Syria's Idlib Province

Claims will confront the al-Nusra Front it once backed with Russian air cover

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

Turkish-backed Syrian rebel outfits have crossed from Turkey into Syria's Idbli province along with elements of the Turkish army. Their stated mission is aimed against Syrian al-Qaeda (Tahrir al-Sham/ Jabah Fateh al-Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra), which ironically was once heavily backed by Erdogan against Assad.

Ankara claims the operation will have Russian air support (Russians did provide some air support for Turks and rebels last year in the fighting for al-Bab against ISIS), and is aimed at realizing the Russian-Iranian-Turkish deescalation deal reached in Astana earlier this year.

The Daily Sabah:

Turkish military units have started expeditionary activities in Syria's Idlib in line with the de-escalation zone deal agreed by Astana parties, the Armed Forces (TSK) said in a statement Monday.

The statement published on TSK's website stated that the military elements that will take part in the monitoring force have started their expedition as of Oct. 8, 2017, to establish monitoring sites during the operation.

The statement said the goals of the de-escalation zones, which were declared Dec. 30Dec. 30, 2016, and guaranteed by Turkey, Russia and Iran through the Astana process, aim to increase the effectiveness of the cease-fire regime, ending armed clashes, providing humanitarian aid to those in need, establishing proper conditions for the return of the displaced and supporting the establishment of conditions for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

It added that TSK elements will be carrying out their duties through the rules of engagement agreed by guarantor countries.

Control in the Idlib region is divided into two between moderate opposition groups and al-Qaida affiliated coalition of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which rejects the Astana process and is excluded by parties to Astana.

The operation aims to clear HTS from the region in order to maintain the cease-fire.

The Turks along with "rebels" in their employ already occupy a part of northern Syria in Aleppo province, sandwiched between two Kurdish-held enclaves.

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