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Turkey Deploys Drones to Northern Syria amid Talk of ‘Safe Zone’

The Turkish military has deployed drones to northern Syria, where Washington and Ankara have tentatively agreed to create a “safe zone” free of Al Qa’ida-linked terrorists and US-backed Kurdish YPG units. The Turkish government considers the latter forces an extension of the banned PKK, which has waged a decades-long insurgency geared toward gaining autonomy in Turkey. Washington and Ankara last week announced their intention to set up a joint operations center to monitor the prospective buffer zone – to be located on the Syrian side of the shared border with Turkey – although no formal deal has been reached and there remain points of contention regarding key details, foremost the size of the region to be carved out. Meanwhile, Syrian troops have reportedly captured two towns in the restive northwest Idlib Province, and are advancing toward the rebel stronghold of Khan Sheikhoun. Idlib is the last major bastion outside of the control of the Assad regime, which, in conjunction with Russia, initiated in April a controversial offensive to retake the province. The fighting has raised the specter of another humanitarian catastrophe, with some 3 million civilians stuck in the crossfire.