Turkey to keep military posts in Idlib after Syrian government attacks

Turkish military vehicles drive in a convoy along the Bab Al-Hawa highway on May 21, 2019 on their way to reinforce Turkish military observation points in the southern countryside of Syria’s Aleppo province. (AFP)
Updated 22 May 2019
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Turkey to keep military posts in Idlib after Syrian government attacks

  • Syrian government forces have carried out at least three attacks near a Turkish observation post in the Idlib de-escalation zone
  • ‘The Turkish Armed Forces will not retreat from where it is located’

ANKARA: Turkey will not evacuate its military observation post in northern Syria’s Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in the region, after a suspected Syrian government attack this month, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency has said that Syrian government forces have carried out at least three attacks near a Turkish observation post in the Idlib de-escalation zone, one of 12 posts set up under an agreement between Turkey, Russia and Iran last May.
“Evacuating the observation post in Idlib after the regime’s attack is definitely not happening, it won’t happen anywhere,” Akar told reporters late on Tuesday.
“The Turkish Armed Forces will not retreat from where it is located.”
More than 3 million people live in Idlib and surrounding areas, including many who fled government advances in other parts of Syria in recent years.
At least 180,000 people have fled an upsurge in violence in northwest Syria, and government bombings have killed dozens in the past three weeks.
Since last year, the region has been partly shielded in a cease-fire brokered by Russia and Turkey, but much of the recent fighting has hit that buffer zone.
The possibility of an Idlib offensive has drawn warnings of yet another humanitarian catastrophe, with the United Nations warning that up to 2.5 million people could flee toward the Turkish border in such a scenario.
“The regime is doing its best to disrupt the status quo, using barrel bombs, land offensives and air bombings,” Akar said, adding that 300,000 people had been displaced due to the conflict in the past month.
Akar said the beginning of a “new tragedy” had been prevented and he had discussed preventing a new wave of migrants into Turkey with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.


Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

Updated 16 June 2019
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Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

  • Russian-backed regime forces try to retake villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters
  • The clashes also left 26 pro-regime forces dead in the north of Hama province

 

BEIRUT: At least 10 civilians and 35 combatants, mostly pro-regime forces, were killed on Saturday in clashes and airstrikes that erupted at dawn in northwestern Syria, a war monitor said.

The flare-up came as Russian-backed regime forces tried to retake two villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters earlier this month, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Since this morning, the Syrian regime and allied fighters have launched five failed attempts to regain control of Jibine and Tal Maleh in northwestern Hama province,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

Syrian regime airstrikes killed nine opposition fighters, the war monitor said.

Ensuing clashes in the north of Hama province left 26 pro-regime forces dead, including eight who were killed in a mine explosion, the Observatory said.

In neighboring Idlib, regime airstrikes killed 10 civilians, including three children, the Observatory said.

The strikes hit the towns of Maaret Al-Numan and Al-Bara as well as the village of Al-Ftira, according to the war monitor.

The Idlib region of some 3 million people is supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a buffer zone deal that Russia and Turkey signed in September.

But it was never fully implemented, as opposition refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarized zone.

In January, the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate extended its administrative control over the region, which includes most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.

The Syrian regime and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing nearly 400 civilians, according to the Observatory.

Turkey said on Friday that it did not accept Russia’s “excuse” that it had no ability to stop the Syrian regime’s continued bombardments in the last opposition bastion of Idlib.

“In Syria, who are the regime’s guarantors? Russia and Iran,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told state news agency Anadolu in a televised interview.

“Thus we do not accept the excuse that ‘We cannot make the regime listen to us’,” he said.

His comments came as Turkey disagreed with Russia earlier this week after Moscow claimed a new cease-fire had been secured in the province following weeks of regime bombardments — a claim that was denied by Ankara.

Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-regime protests.

Russia launched a military intervention in support of the regime in 2015, helping its forces reclaim large parts of the country from opposition fighters and militants.