Following the deployment of military units on the Syrian border on Saturday, Turkish military vehicles crossed the border with Syria into Idlib on Sunday, a local resident and a local rebel said, Reuters reported. According to the report, the vehicles travelled under escort from Tahrir al-Sham, whose fighters accompanied them along the road.
Turkish media early Sunday morning reported that the Turkish Armed Forces shelled positions in Syria’s jihadist-controlled Idlib in support of the progression of Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters on the ground.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Saturday that the country had launched a “serious” operation in Idlib province with Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces. Erdoğan said the FSA was carrying out the operation while Russia was backing it from the air and Turkish soldiers were supporting it from inside Turkish borders.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said on Sunday that Turkey is cooperating with Russia during its operation in Syria’s Idlib: “We will provide security in Idlib.”
Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and other top commanders’ visit to the border province on Saturday was evaluated as a signal of the beginning of the operations in Idlib.
Erdoğan has also said on Sunday that Turkey would not allow a Kurdish corridor in Syria extending along the Turkish border to the Mediterranean while assessing Turkish military operations in the Idlib region of Syria, the state-run TRT Haber reported.
“We have to prevent a terror corridor that was planned from the furthest east [in Syria] to the Mediterranean. We will not permit it. If we allow it we will face a new Kobani. Sorry about that. We will not let it happen again,” said Erdoğan during his closing address to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) consultation and assessment retreat in Afyonkarahisar province.
“Whoever says and thinks whatever, we will not let Turkey be pushed into a corner with threats from Iraq and Syria,” added Erdoğan, evaluating both the Turkish operations in Syria and the independence referendum held recently by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.
“Let us repeat our statement for those who are enemies of Turkey: We can come suddenly one night.”
Erdoğan on Aug. 23 said the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) was trying to create a corridor to the Mediterranean Sea in northern Syria, warning that Turkey would not allow this whatever the cost.
“Afrin [a Kurdish canton in northern Syria] is indeed a PYD project to reach the Mediterranean Sea. We will not permit a terror corridor in northern Syria having access to the Mediterranean. We will intervene whatever the cost,” said Erdoğan.
Tahrir al-Sham is spearheaded by the former Nusra Front, which was al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch until last year, when it changed its name and broke formal allegiance to the global movement founded by Osama bin Laden.
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, Reuters noted. (SCF with turkishminute.com)