Turkey has long opposed any political transition under him, but Russia's intervention in Syria's civil war shored up the president after years of Turkish and US insistence that he must go.
The operation is expected to take a four-pronged approach, launching from the Syrian border towns of Atmeh, Bab al Hawa, Harem and Salkin, according to the rebel commander. It said the operation was yet to formally begin. Turkey, however, has backed rebels seeking Assad's ouster. But the FSA has increasingly lost territory to extremist Islamist groups there.
Idlib and swaths of land in Syria's northern and northwestern regions are largely held by the Takfiri Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terrorist outfit, spearheaded by a former al-Qaeda affiliate that changed its name a year ago from the Nusra Front to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. FSA and HTS oppose the Assad regime, but are also battling each another for control of Idlib.
Turkey has sent military reinforcements to its southern border with Syria to commence what it called a "a serious operation" in Idlib.
Meanwhile, the "final large fight" in Iraq against the Islamic State group will take place on the border with Syria, a general in a US-led coalition against the militants said Saturday.
The Hurriyet daily said ultimately Turkey would ensure security in Idlib city and Russian Federation in the surrounding area.
On Saturday, it warned "treacherous factions that stand by the side of the Russian occupier" should only enter the area if they want "their mothers to be bereaved, their children to be orphaned, their wives to be widowed".
"For now the Free Syrian Army is carrying out the operation there", he said.
"Now we are applying the Astana decisions in Idlib", Erdogan said, referring to an agreement announced last month in the Kazakhstan capital. The Observatory also said al-Qaida-linked militants have deployed new fighters to the area where the brief clashes occurred, in Kafr Lusin village, along the border. The official Turkish news agency Anadolu said Saturday the new deployment would serve as a "wall" between Kurdish-controlled Afrin in northwestern Aleppo and Idlib province.
Already tense relations took a turn for the worse after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan launched a crackdown on his opponents following a failed coup attempt a year ago, Reuters reported.
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