US, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi to launch op in north Syria: Report

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Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the US and Turkey have agreed to form a coalition to launch a large-scale military operation in northern Syria, the Rai al-Youm newspaper reports. 

The paper, edited by prominent Palestinian journalist Abdul Bari Atwan, on Monday quoted Mohib Shalati, a former major general with the Syrian army, as making the announcement on his Twitter account.

Shalati was himself citing the US State Department’s website as announcing that the US has agreed with Turkey to launch a massive military campaign in northern Syria.

The campaign will be backed by American and Turkish airstrikes as well as Turkish artillery attacks, it said.

Shalati said a meeting had been held in Turkey last Monday with the participation of representatives from the CIA, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey as well as commanders of militant groups in Syria to coordinate the operation.

The report said the so-called “North Army” coalition will be completely financed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Shalati added that the force will include militants from Ahrar al-Sham, Failaq al-Sham, Jaish al-Sham, Thuwar al-Sham, al-Jabha al-Shamiya and Nour al-Din al-Zenki, among others.

Turkey, he said, had told the militant groups that if they refuse to participate in the operations, they will be deprived of support and will be added to a terror list.

Shalati said the agreement entails transportation of forces and weaponry from Turkey to Syria’s Aleppo. The operation will be launched from several fronts in one to two weeks, he added.

According to the former general, more than 3,000 militants with advanced equipment will take part in the operation.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011.

UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which has also displaced over half of the Arab country’s pre-war population of about 23 million.

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