Turkish troops enter northern Syria in new operation


Military convoys crossed from Reyhanli in southern Turkey's Hatay province on Thursday night.

The Turkish army has begun setting up "observation posts" in Syria's northwestern Idlib province in its efforts to create a de-escalation zone, the military said on Friday, although the move was seen partly aimed at containing the Kurdish YPG militia.

Over 100 soldiers, including special forces, and 30 armored vehicles entered Idlib, Turkey's Hurriyet daily reported on Friday, as it speculated more troops could be sent to the province over the next few days.

"On October 12, we began activities to establish observation posts", the military said in a statement.

Turkey says its operation, along with Syrian rebel groups it backs, is part of a deal it reached last month with Russian Federation and Iran in Astana, Kazakhstan, to reduce fighting between insurgents and the Syrian government.

"The Turkish Armed Forces continue to carry out their duties in the territory within the engagement rules agreed by the guarantor countries in the Astana negotiations".

However, the deployment is also meant to rein in the Kurdish YPG militia, which holds the adjacent Afrin region, a senior rebel official involved in the operation said.

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"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 in the area said.

The convoy was heading toward Sheikh Barakat, a high area overlooking rebel-held territory and the Kurdish YPG-controlled canton of Afrin, the witnesses said.

The operation in the northwestern region was launched under a May deal between Turkey, which backs groups opposed to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad's regime, and Russian Federation and Iran, who support Assad.

Last week Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced new operation in Syria.

The operation's target is the HTS but Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP in Beirut that Turkish forces were escorted by HTS elements, appearing to suggest a degree of coordination by Turkey with the group.

Turkey regards the YPG as an extension of the PKK, a Kurdish group inside Turkey that has been waging armed insurgency against Ankara for three decades.