Turkey continues to increase its military presence in Syria's Idlib - analyst

Turkey has sent major reinforcements to Syria’s last rebel-held province of  Idlib, as Ankara tries to stem rapid advances by Syrian government forces, analyst Seth Frantzman wrote for the Jerusalem Post on Saturday.

"What appears to be happening now is a larger build-up of Turkish army components, numbering some 15,000 troops and more than 1,000 armoured vehicles," he said, citing a Turkish policy expert Yusuf Erim.

Turkey has concentrated armoured vehicles, including multiple rocket launchers, howitzers, mine-resistant vehicles and amphibious combat vehicles, which are produced by the country's largest defence firms, Aselsan and Roketsan in partnership with NATO, Frantzman said.

Sixteen Turkish military personnel were killed in shelling by Syrian government forces within a couple of weeks, prompting Turkey to tell Russia to “stand aside” while its forces to bombard dozens of Syrian army targets in retaliation.

The Syrian armed opposition is squeezed into a shrinking area of Idlib province, where more than 3 million inhabitants, many of them civilians who fled fighting elsewhere in the country, as well as thousands of rebels have taken refuge.

The Russian-backed Syrian government launched an attack on Idlib in April, saying a 2018 de-escalation agreement between Turkey and Russia had failed to drive extremist fighters from the province.