Turkey to launch military operation into Syria's Idlib - report

Turkey prepares to launch an attack on jihadist group Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Syria's Idlib, a Syrian news agency run by exiles in Turkey, Qasioun News reported on Sunday, citing HTS sources.

Ankara informed Turkish-backed rebels in Syria to prepare for a possible operation against HTS in case peaceful ways to dismantle the jihadist group is exhausted, Qasioun said.

In a 2018 deal with Russia, Turkey agreed to establish a demilitarised zone in Idlib and crackdown on HTS in return for staving off a destructive Syrian regime offensive into the province, which would likely have resulted in millions more Syrians fleeing into Turkey itself. 

Turkey has not officially demanded HTS to dissolve itself, Qasioun said, citing HTS sources.

The estimated 50,000 HTS fighters have become the dominant force in Idlib and captured territory in neighbouring provinces. Rather than being contained, HTS even managed to take over more of Idlib province this month from the Turkish-backed Syrian National Liberation Front (NLF) militia. Russia and Assad’s forces began intensive bombardment of Idlib province this in early May.