- Clashes have broken out on the Syria border between Turkish troops and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) militants
- Turkish forces have not yet entered the Idlib province
- HTS threatened the Free Syrian Army against entering Idlib
- The U.S. said on Saturday it backed Turkish military intervention in northern Syria
Clashes have broken out on the Syria border between Turkish troops and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militants, as Ankara builds up its forces along the frontier with northern Syrian Idlib province.
Exchanges of fire were reported by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, although social media reports of Turkish and Syrian rebel troops entering Idlib province were false, the monitor said.
"Turkish forces are not on Syrian soil yet," Rami Abdulrahman told Al Jazeera.
The firefights come a day after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced plans for military intervention in Idlib province, where HTS militants drove out Ankara-backed rebels in July.
No time or date was given for the planned assault, although Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters on Saturday the aim of the planned intervention was to reduce violence in rebel-held Idlib province.
"The topic on Idlib is this: We reached an agreement in Astana. Why? We want to prevent conflict in these areas. That is to say de-conflict zone," he said, according to Hurriyet Daily.
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Airstrikes were reported in parts of Idlib on Saturday, follows a month of heavy bombardment of the province by Russia and the Syrian regime killing scores of civilians.
This is despite the area being covered by the Turkish-Russian-Iranian de-conflict zones.
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham is dominated by the al-Qaeda linked Fatah al-Sham rebel group, which opposes Turkish intervention in northern Syria.
On Saturday the alliance warned Ankara-backed rebels it described as "treacherous factions that stand by the side of the Russian occupier".
The group warned the Free Syrian Army to avoid entering Idlib unless they want "their mothers to be bereaved, their children to be orphaned, their wives to be widowed".
Turkish commando units and armor are expected to take part in any offensive in Idlib, although it is believed Free Syrian Army fighters will make up the bulk of the force entering the province.
On Saturday, the U.S. said it backed Turkish plans to intervene in northern Syria.
"The Syrian regime has allowed northwest Syria to become a safe haven for al-Qaida terrorists that not only threaten the Syrian people and regional security but also support international terrorist networks," Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told Daily Sabah.
Syrian rebels backed by Turkish troops make up the Euphrates Shield military alliance, which controls parts of northern Syria an offensive against Kurdish and Islamic State group forces.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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