The borders of Idlib governorate were drawn after the positioning of the Turkish monitoring points in its surrounding has ended at the cross-lines of Assad’s forces’ control area; the last of these points was installed in the governorate’s “volatile” western flank, which occupied the on-ground landscape lately, for enduring a persistent Russian shelling accompanied by rumors about Assad’s forces preparations to initiate a military operation.
The last monitoring point was fixed hurriedly, in sync with the “Astana9” talks between the Syrian regime and the opposition under the auspice of the guarantor countries, which in their final communiqué called on the protection of the areas covered by the “de-escalation” agreement and the need to keep it up, especially in Idlib, which turned into the opposition’s main reservoir.
With beginning of 2018, the Turkish army, while spreading in Idlib, has focused on choosing “strategic” areas to position, based on their proximity to Assad’s forces and their Russian alley’s control areas or on their geography, in terms of altitude and military view.
Overlooking Tow Thirds of al-Ghab Plain
The al-Ghab Plain, in the western countryside of Idlib, is one of the most prominent areas economically and militarily speaking, which Assad’s forces have, in the past a few years, tried to progress within at the expense of the opposition factions and failed. Even the opposition factions have launched a number of battles in the area without a marked advance.
Since the beginning of April 2018, there were talks about Assad’s forces intention to advance deeper into al-Ghab Plain, through opening a front that expands to Jisr al-Shughur; however, the 11th monitoring point, which the Turkish army has fixed in the Shashabo Mountain, have ended all the discussions tackling the anticipated military operation.
Kojan Suaan, a military leader of “Jaysh al-Nasr”, who is originally from Shashabo Mountain, has told Enab Baladi that the mountain is a geographical expansion that overlooks tow thirds of al-Ghab Plain at the western side and joins Jabal Zawiya at the northern side; from the south it overlooks the city of Qalaat al-Madiq, which lately have turned into the regime’s connection with the opposition.
At the eastern side, the Shashabo Mountain views the towns in the area of Eltar; the mountain is housed by about 40 thousand persons who make living through agriculture and raising cattle.
Suaan added that Shashabo Mountain’s importance erupts from two dimensions. The first is economic, based on farming and raising cattle, the two occupations which the people’s population is famous for. The second is military, based on its strategic position, for it directly overlooks Assad’s forces’ positions at different directions. In the past a few months, Russia tried to reach an agreement as to enter the mountain with its residents’ consent; however, it failed.
According to the military leader, the Turkish army has positioned in the town of Shair al-Maghar, geographically affiliated to the mountain, where it spread 150 armored vehicles, pointing out that this monitoring point’s prominence lies in the fact that it links the mentioned town with the rest of the Shashabo Mountain’s towns.
The Last Monitoring Point in Jisr al-Shughur
In a former interview with Enab Baladi, Ibrahim al-Idilbi, a military consultant in the “Free Army,” said that the map of Idlib and its countryside have been formed by the fixed Turkish points, adding that “We can say that the war between the revolutionaries and Assad’s forces has definitely ended.”
According to al-Idilbi, “Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime are, initially, committed to the areas in the eastern part of the railway,” pointing out to Russian-Iranian-Turkish mobile patrols that control the Aleppo-Damascus International Highway; the Turkish influence, in the meantime, will cover the area expanding from Jarabulus, passing through the western countryside of Idlib and reaching its positions at the cost.
A few days following the installation of the 11th monitoring point, the Turkish army, with dozens of military vehicles, entered the town of al-Aliyah, in the surrounding of the city of Jarabulus, western countryside of Idlib, and fixed the 12th monitoring point.
Musaab al-Ashqar, a member of the “Free Hama Governorate Council,” explained the importance of the 12th point, saying that it directly overlooks the entirety of the al-Ghab Plain area, especially the northern part of it, administratively known as al-Ziyarah district.
He also told Enab Baladi that the point faces Assad’s forces’ positions in the towns of al-Bahsah and Forow, in addition to its being close to the famous Jourin Camp, which is Assad’s largest base in western Hama, for the distance separating the monitoring point from the camp is less than 15 kilometers.
Assad’s “Kornet” Rockets to the Forefront
“Observatory 20,” which monitors large areas of the western countryside of Hama, has stressed the information offered by al-Ashqar; however, it pointed out to the persistence of the shelling against the area’s residential neighborhoods, considering that the ceasefire has not yet been put into force.
The Observatory said that the shelling targets the rural part of Jisr al-Shughur and the towns of al-Ghab Plain, accompanied by artillery rounds and missiles triggered from developed launchers, fixed by Assad’s forces in correspondence with the installation of the Turkish monitoring point in the town of al-Hakoura and the areas surrounding it.
Last week, Assad’s forces’ missiles targeted civilians and killed dozens, the majority of whom were displaced from rural Homs; the missiles have also led closing the roads between the two towns of al-Qahira and al-Ziyarah.
According to the Observatory the shelling took place in front of the Turkish forces of the 11th and the 12th points; the Syrian military aircraft have never calmed down despite these points and conducted a number of air raids near them, including one against the town of al-Aliyah, less than 800 meters from the Turkish army’s position.
Lieutenant Iyad Abu Al-Majed, a leader of an “Anti-Armor Regiment” in “Jaysh al-Nasr,” said that “the Kornet is the longest among all the rockets used by the regime.”
He also told Enab Baladi that the “Kornet” generation that the regime owns and have been using in the past a few years, can achieve a range of 5500 meters, but the missiles, which have been used lately, are developed by Russia, so that two missiles can be launched and guided at the same time towards a target that might be 10 thousand kilometers away.
Abu al-Majed pointed out that the regime started following the factions’ targeting strategies, for they are no more fixing the rocket launchers in a specific location, thus eliminating the possibility of discovering the launcher and destroying it.