Turkey announces joint-military operation with Syrian rebels in Idlib

World Today

Turkey’s president says a major military operation is underway in Syria’s Idlib Province. The announcement comes only a few weeks after Russia, Iran, and Turkey declared the area a de-escalation zone.

CGTN’s Michal Bardavid reports.

Follow Michal Bardavid on Twitter @michal_bardavid

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that with the help of Turkish armed forces, rebels with the Free Syria Army have launched a military operation in northwest Syria.

“Today, there’s a serious operation in Idlib and it will continue, because we have our brothers there who came to Idlib fleeing violence in Aleppo,” the president said.

 Military observers say jihadist groups in the region, mainly those such as the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham – formerly known as the al-Nusra Front – were given options prior to the start of the operation

“Two offers were made to al-Nusra,” according to military security expert Mete Yarar. “One was to leave the territory under its own free will. And two, the groups affiliated with al-Nusra could defect and be allowed to live there or be taken out of the territory by force.”

One critical component of the operation is the potential humanitarian fallout. Yarar says a large group of people living in Idlib couldn’t flee, but also want to stay put in Syria.

Security issues facing Turkey, however, are not just limited to the Syrian border.

Earlier this week, Turkish counterterrorism forces killed five suspected members of the PKK “Kurdistan Worker’s Party” at a popular resort in Turkey’s southwestern Mugla Province. Turkey, the U.S., and the EU deem the PKK a terrorist organization.

The Turkish interior minister said they had entered the country from the Aegean and Mediterranean seas in ships departing from Syria’s Latakia seaport. This is a new tactic for the group, and certainly one that Turkey’s security forces will prepare for, but right now the focus is on Idlib.

It’s remains unclear how large the newly launched Idlib operation will be and whether Turkish armed forces will cross into Syria. But Turkish military reinforcements can be seen building up at the border, signaling that they are ready.