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Turkish forces on Sunday shelled areas along its border with Syria's northwestern province, an area dominated by al-Qaida-linked militants, as Turkey's president says an operation in the area to enforce a "de-escalation" zone was underway "without problems".

He later told reporters the operation was led by so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants and that the Turkish army was "not yet" operating inside Syria.

Rebel backer Turkey, along with Syrian regime allies Russian Federation and Iran, earlier this year agreed a deal to implement four such ceasefire zones in the war-torn country as a prelude to talks on a peace deal.

The province is one of four such de-escalation zones agreed upon across Syria.

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"Today, there's a serious operation in Idlib and it will continue..." After seizing the northern town of Tal Afar in August, they focused their efforts on Hawija and the Euphrates river area close to the Syrian frontier.

More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began with anti-government protests in March 2011.

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.

Aron Lund, fellow with The Century Foundation think tank, told AFP any Turkish operation "is likely to rely on a mix of Turkish and Syrian forces".

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Many Syrians had fled to Idlib from the neighbouring Aleppo province, which was rocked by heavy fighting past year, and Turkey meant to support them, Erdoğan said.

"Turkish forces are not on Syrian soil yet", Abdulrahman said, adding that army was firing artillery shells across the border, while the rebel alliance attacked a Turkish military base.

US-Turkish tensions have risen over US military support for Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria, considered by Ankara to be an extension of the banned PKK, which has waged an insurgency for three decades in southeast Turkey.

Despite months of relative calm in Idlib, Syrian regime and Russian forces have in recent weeks carried out air raids across the province, killing dozens of civilians, according to the Observatory.

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Idlib is the last remaining area in northern Syria where anti-Assad rebel groups have a foothold.

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