Turkey invades Syria to face anti-Damascus rebels

Turkish troops enter Syria. (Photo provided)

BEIRUT: A convoy of the military operation that Turkey is carrying out in Syria’s Idlib province crossed into the area late on Thursday, two rebels and a witness said.

The convoy included about 30 military vehicles, said Abu Khairo, a commander in a Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel group based in the area, and it entered Syria near the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, according to a civilian witness.

It was heading to Sheikh Barakat, a hilltop that overlooks large areas of rebel-held northwestern Syria, but also the Afrin area held by the Kurdish YPG militia.

The invasion had been expected. Russia, Syria and Turkey have been discussing a deal for the Turkish involvement.

The convoy was escorted by fighters from Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance of jihadist groups including the former al Qaeda affiliate previously known as the Nusra Front, Abu Khairo said.

“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.

Turkey said on Saturday it was carrying out a military operation in Idlib and surrounding areas as part of a deal it reached with Russia and Iran last month to enforce a “de-escalation” zone in northwest Syria.

The zone is one of several set up around Syria to reduce warfare between rebels, including groups backed by Turkey, and the government, which is supported by both Russia and Iran.

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