Rebel commanders have said they expect Turkey’s intervention in Idlib Province in northwest Syria “to go smoothly”, without much resistance from the jihadist bloc Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced a “landmark operation” last weekend, and some advance Turkish personnel have reportedly moved into the province, parts of which are controlled by HTS. There have been some clashes between the two sides, but reports are circulating of a high-level agreement for HTS to allow the movement of Turkish “observers” to positions between Idlib and the Kurdish canton of Afrin.
Ankara said on Monday, “The Turkish armed forces began reconnaissance activities on October 8 to establish surveillance posts as part of the operation to be carried out in Idlib Province.”
Rebel commander Musa Khaled told Al Jazeera, “Turkey has made it clear to Tahrir al-Sham, through representatives from the armed opposition groups including Failaq al-Sham, that any factions who put up a fight would be targeted.”
He asserted that HTS “understands that they do not have the military capability” to fight the Turkish army: “This will cause them to submit to any deal that is enforced on them.”
Isham Eskeif of the Hamza Division supported the reports of a “principal, momentary understanding” between the Turkish army and HTS: “The Turks are being clear — they don’t want blood to be spilled — and they’re trying to get that across to Tahrir al-Sham.”
Turkey agreed last month with Russia and Iran on a plan to send 500 monitors each for a “de-escalation zone” in Idlib Province. The Turkish personnel — up to 1,000, some Ankara journalists now claim — will operate inside the province, with the Russian and Iranian counterparts on the borders.
The Turkish military first intervened in August 2016, supporting rebels as they took territory in northern Aleppo Province from the Islamic State.
Video: The Russia-Regime Airstrikes on Idlib
Meanwhile, Russia and the Assad regime continued their airstrikes on Idlib Province, including another attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun.
Since resuming their assaults on September 19, Moscow and the Assad regime have killed more than 200 people, despite Russia’s proclamation of a de-escalation zone.
Britain’s Channel 4 reports on the deaths and destruction:
At last someone is covering the News here on the ground. Thank you Channel 4 News. With so many hospitals bombed, and so many loosing funding, it is difficult to continue to save lives. But we still trying…https://t.co/LXUbyhsYWx pic.twitter.com/zCMsMstyjA
— Dr Shajul Islam (@DrShajulIslam) October 9, 2017