The armed forces confirmed they had begun a reconnaissance mission in Syria's Idlib province on Sunday.

Turkish military vehicles are seen on the Turkish-Syrian border line in Reyhanli, Hatay province, Turkey, October 8, 2017. (Reuters)
Turkish military vehicles are seen on the Turkish-Syrian border line in Reyhanli, Hatay province, Turkey, October 8, 2017. (Reuters) (Reuters)

Turkey's armed forces launched a reconnaissance mission in Syria's Idlib province on Sunday, the military confirmed on Monday.

The scouting operation comes ahead of an expected military operation in the bitterly contested Syrian northwest.

"The Turkish armed forces began reconnaissance activities on October 8 [Sunday] to establish surveillance posts as part of the operation to be carried out in Idlib province," the statement said.

The move is in line with the rules of engagement agreed in the Astana process last month in the Kazakhstan capital. 

TRT World's Nicole Johnston has this report from the the Turkey-Syria border.

Turkey's border security

Turkey has been a key supporter of rebels fighting forces loyal to Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad during the six-and-a-half-year war.

But Ankara's focus has moved from ousting him to securing its own border against threats.

"When we don't go to Syria, Syria comes to us," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told members of his ruling AK Party on Sunday. 

"If we didn't take our measures, bombs would fall on our cities."

The president reiterated that his country would not "allow" any "terror corridor" on its southern borders. 

Control of Idlib

Much of Idlib province, including Maaret al Numan, is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS).

But the HTS is not party to the Astana agreement.

HTS, spearheaded by the former Nusra Front, which was Al Qaeda's Syrian branch until last year when it changed its name and said it broke allegiance to the global network, has been a formidable military force in the conflict.    

Earlier this year, the group battled other rebel fronts as it tried to gain control over areas including Idlib.

Syrian residents and members of the Syrian Civil Defence, also known as White Helmets, carry a victim following a reported air strike on a vegetable market in Maaret al Numan in Syria's northern province of Idlib on October 8, 2017.
Syrian residents and members of the Syrian Civil Defence, also known as White Helmets, carry a victim following a reported air strike on a vegetable market in Maaret al Numan in Syria's northern province of Idlib on October 8, 2017. (AFP)

Air strikes in Idlib

At least 11 civilians including two children and two women were killed on Sunday in air strikes on a market in northwestern Syria, a monitor said.

Idlib is one of four so-called "de-escalation" zones under a deal brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran in May.

The attack came as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) prepares to launch an offensive in the province.

"At least 11 people were killed including two children," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

"There are around 20 wounded and the toll of victims could rise."

Observatory blames regime

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the strikes on the market in Idlib province's Maaret al Numan were probably carried out by regime forces.

It relies on a network of sources inside Syria, and says it determines whose planes carry out raids according to type, location, flight patterns and munitions used.

At least 13 civilians died in suspected regime air strikes around Khan Sheikhun, the site of a deadly April chemical attack, said the Observatory on Friday and Saturday.

Also, the Syrian Civil Defence, better known as the White Helmets rescue workers, said on its Twitter account that jets it believed to be from the Syrian military had struck the marketplace on Sunday.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies