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Turkey-backed Syrian rebels to enter Idlib soon

Erdogan told reporters after the meeting that Russian Federation supports the operation from the air while supported by Turkish soldiers from within the Turkish border.

"We are taking new steps to ensure security in Idlib".

Earlier in the day, Turkish howitzers on the border fired around five shots in support of allied Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters who had entered Idlib, which is largely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a former al-Qaida affiliate that changed its name past year from the Nusra Front.

Turkish forces on Sunday shelled areas along its border with Syria's northwestern province, an area dominated by al-Qaida-linked militants, as Turkey's president says an operation in the area to enforce a "de-escalation" zone was underway "without problems".

Rebel groups taking part in the operation - part of the Euphrates Shield campaign that Turkey has backed with armour and troops in another part of Syria to the east of Idlib since past year - said on Saturday they expected it to start very soon. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

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It is not clear what role the Turkish military will play in the operation. "Salah al-Din al-Shishani is still alive and is somewhere in the regions controlled by militant groups in the west of Aleppo province".

Turkey has been building up its forces close to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing for weeks, in anticipation of a military operation into the territory.

Deploying Russian and Iranian observers could potentially be a controversial issue, considering that the Syrian opposition, backed by Turkey, views the two countries as enemies due to their support for the Syrian government.

On Saturday, the US said it backed Turkish plans to intervene in northern Syria.

"The fighters number in the thousands and there are Turkish soldiers participating", he added, without giving further details.

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And it has seen its ranks rapidly depleted in advance of the expected Turkish operation, with its coalition now effectively reduced back down to Fateh Al Sham.

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.

According to the agreement on the Idlib de-escalation zone, Russia's military policemen will maintain security outside Idlib and Turkey will deploy its troops inside Idlib.

Syria's former Al Qaeda affiliate was once a key ally for many rebels but they are now abandoning it as the jihadists face a Turkey-backed operation in its stronghold.

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The officer, who suffered serious stabbing wounds to his head, face, and arm , is expected to make a full recovery. Sharif has been remanded into custody and is scheduled for a bail hearing in provincial court on Tuesday morning.



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