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Turkey begins major military operation in northern Syria

(Zaman Al Wasl)- The Turkish army backed by opposition forces launched a major military operation in Idlib province, following three weeks of heavy reinforcements to stall the Russian-led offensive in northern Syria that has killed 400 people and displaced 900,000 people since December, local activists told Zaman al-Wasl Thursday.

Backed by heavy Turkish artillery barrages, the SNA has made a swift advance in the town of al-Nayrab, taking a ground few miles from the strategic military airport in eastern Idlib region .

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened Wednesday to launch an operation in Idlib region by the end of the month if Bashar al-Assad's regime fails to withdraw behind Turkish military positions.

"An operation in Idlib is imminent," Erdogan told his party's lawmakers in parliament. "We are counting down, we are making our final warnings".

Syrian regime forces led by Bashar al-Assad have been trying to capture the Aleppo countryside and parts of neighboring Idlib province.

The advances have sent hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians fleeing towards the border with Turkey, which already hosts more than 3.7 million refugees.

The regime’s rapid advances have sparked rare clashes between Syria and Turkey, which backs Syria's rebels and has troops in the region to monitor a 2018 cease-fire deal.  

Syrian aid workers issued an urgent call for a ceasefire and international help for nearly a million people fleeing a regime onslaught in the country's northwest on Wednesday.

In the past week, Assad's forces have secured a strategic highway known as the M5 and consolidated control over Aleppo province for the first time since 2012, dealing a severe blow to the opposition now fighting to hold its last bastion in Idlib.

Turkish officials have announced Thursday that Turkey and Russia are discussing possible joint patrols around Idlib as one option to ensure security of the region.

It has also been announced that Turkey, Russia and Iran will meet in Tehran next month to discuss Idlib while a Russian delegation may come to Ankara before that.

The news comes after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that there was some rapprochement with Russia in talks about Syria's Idlib region, where Ankara has threatened to mount an offensive, but added that discussions were not at a desired level yet.

Zaman Al Wasl
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