turkey enters syria under the formal & visible protection of AQ

First Turkish military convoy enters Syria’s Idlib
Reuters, Oct 12 2017

BEIRUT – A first 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 another witness said. The convoy included about 30 military vehicles, said Abu Khairo, a commander in an 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 north-western Syria, but also the Afrin area held by the SDF/YPG. The convoy was escorted by fighters from Tahrir al-Sham, aka Jabhat al-Nusra, Abu Khairo said. Another FSA official in the area said:

The Turkish army convoy is entering under the protection of Tahrir al-Sham to take positions on the front line with the YPG.

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 deescalation zone in north-west Syria. Nusra opposes the deescalation deal with the government, but its role in escorting the Turkish reconnaissance team on Sunday indicated there might not be any direct military confrontation between its fighters and Turkey. The Turkish military operation in Idlib will also include Syrian rebel groups involved in the Euphrates Shield operation that Ankara launched in Syria last year further to the east, Erdogan said on Saturday. Nusra and Euphrates Shield rebels have fought this year against other insurgents in Idlib and surrounding areas in an effort to consolidate its control. Turkey’s decision to launch the Euphrates Shield campaign a year ago was aimed partly at pushing Daesh from its border, but also at stopping the SDF/YPG from gaining more sway. Backed by Pindostan in its battle against Daesh, the SDF/YPG has seized much of north-eastern Syria and attempted to link that territory up with its canton in Afrin. By gaining a presence in Sheikh Barakat, Turtkey’s forces would surround Afrin on three sides. Several Turkish military vehicles, ambulances and tankers were visible in photographs published by Anadolu late on Thursday at a village near Turkey’s Reyhanli border gate opposite Bab al-Hawa.

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