Turkey prepared to retake Syria's northern strategic city

What's going on in Idlib

What's going on in Idlib

The firefights come a day after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced plans for military intervention in Idlib province, where HTS militants drove out Ankara-backed rebels in July.

The action in Idlib comes after guarantor countries - Russia, Turkey, and Iran - agreed to establish de-escalation zones in Syria during a meeting in Kazakh capital Astana on May 4.

Turkish troops are expected to be deployed inside Idlib with Russians stationed around the city, and the collaboration emphasizes the closer ties between Erdogan and Putin, a relationship viewed with concern by Turkey's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies. "Today a very serious operation is ongoing in Idlib and this will continue".

President Erdogan refused to provide details on the extent of Turkish military deployment in Syria.

TRT World's Sara Firth, who is in the southern Turkish province of Hatay on the Mediterranean coast, explains the latest efforts to build a safe zone in northern Syria.

"We will not allow a terrorist corridor to be established on our border", Erdogan said in his address.

The Turkish army has always been reinforcing its military deployment on the Syrian border in case of a threat to its territory.

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Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Observatory, said that the rebel alliance was sending reinforcements to the border area. Turkish soldiers are expected to join the operation later, he said.

In a statement, the groups said that attacking Idlib would "not be a picnic" and added that "the lions of jihad and martyrdom are waiting to pounce".

Idlib is now controlled by al-Qaeda linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militants, and a Turkish military operation into the province has been expected for some time.

Turkey has been one of the biggest supporters of rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the six-and-a-half-year war, but its focus has moved from ousting him to securing its own border.

The advances against ISIL (also known as ISIS) in Deir Az Zor have cost a heavy civilian death toll from Russian and coalition air raids.

Airstrikes were reported in parts of Idlib on Saturday, follows a month of heavy bombardment of the province by Russian Federation and the Syrian regime killing scores of civilians.

Turkey's Syria policy "may be serving other goals beyond Idlib", said Hakki Uygur, an analyst at the Center for Iranian Studies in Ankara.

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