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Turkey threatens to hit Syrian ‘radicals’ who do not abide by ceasefire

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Turkey on Thursday threatened to use force against “radicals” in Syrias Idlib province after Russia accused Ankara of failing to “neutralise” jihadist groups under a 2018 deal.


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“Force will be used in Idlib against those who do not abide by the ceasefire, including the radicals,” Turkey's Defence Minister Hulusi Akar was quoted as saying by the official Anadolu news agency.

“Any form of measure will be taken,” he said.

Idlib – the last opposition bastion in Syria – is held by an array of rebels dominated by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) jihadist group, which is led by members of the countrys former al Qaeda franchise.

President Bashar al-Assads forces have pressed ahead with an offensive in the region since December, killing more than 380 civilians, according to monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The killing of 14 Turks in Idlib in government shelling has fuelled tensions between Ankara and Damascus, while raising stakes with Russia – a key ally of Assad.

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday accused Russia of committing “massacres” in Idlib and threatened to strike government forces anywhere in Syria if the slightest harm is done to Turkish troops.

In return, Moscow accused Ankara of failing to honour the 2018 deal, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying the Turkish side “had taken upon itself an obligation to neutralise terrorist groups” in Idlib.

Under the bilateral agreement, radical groups were required to withdraw from a demilitarised zone in the Idlib region.

Turkish Chief of Staff General Yasar Guler Thursday spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart, General Valery Gerasimov, about the situation in Idlib, the Turkish army announced on Twitter.

Humanitarian crisis

The escalation comes as the United Nations expressed concern over the mass displacement and humanitarian situation in Syrias northwest.

Over 140,000 Syrians have been displaced in the last three days alone, bringing the total of those uprooted in a Syrian government offensive against the last opposition stronghold to over 800,000, the UN said Thursday.

The UN said at least 60 percent of the more than 800,000 displaced since December 1 are children. The humanitarian crisis in the already overcrowded opposition-held enclave is compounded by freezing weather conditions and existing severe needs.

The government offensive, backed by Russia, has intensified and expanded to include southern and Read More – Source