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Turkish military reinforcements reach Idlib amid intensive shelling

Turkish patrol passing through Idlib a few hours after entering the buffer zone, established under the Sochi deal - 8 March 2019 (Enab Baladi)

Turkish patrol passing through Idlib a few hours after entering the buffer zone, established under the Sochi deal - 8 March 2019 (Enab Baladi)

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Turkey announced that it is sending new military reinforcements to its military observation posts in northwestern Idlib.

Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency quoted its correspondents, on Wednesday 4 December, saying that the Turkish army sent large military reinforcements to its military observation posts in Idlib buffer zone.

Anadolu’s correspondent pointed out that Turkey’s military sent tanks, armored vehicles, personnel carriers and construction mechanisms to their observation posts. These observation posts were held under “the de-escalation zone agreement.”

Turkey reached an agreement with Russia in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi on September 17 to establish a demilitarized zone between opposition and regime-held areas in Idlib.

This zone is 15 kilometers deep in Idlib and 20 kilometers in the al-Ghab Plain in Hama’s northern countryside. The agreement provides for the withdrawal of radical factions from the agreed area.

Since the beginning of 2018, Turkey has installed 12 military observation posts in Idlib under “the de-escalation zone agreement.”

The Turkish army focused its deployment in the strategic areas of Idlib, considering their proximity to the Russian and Syrian regime-controlled areas as well as the geographical nature of the Turkish-held areas in terms of their highness and military view.

Violations of de-escalation zone agreement

In spite of the de-escalation zone agreement, Russian-backed Syrian regime forces systematically followed up a wider escalation of violence, including aerial bombing of villages, vital facilities and markets, in parallel to ground attacks on the axes of the region.

Russian and government warplanes and helicopter gunships carried out air raids, on 4 December, over the eastern towns of Idlib countryside, resulting in the death of many, including children and women and a number of casualties.

The Syrian Civil Defense (SCD) said on its Facebook page that the helicopters dropped barrel bombs on residential neighborhoods in southern and eastern areas in rural Idlib, in addition to Russian raids on the vicinity of Jisr al-Shughour.

The SCD pointed out that those air raids have resulted in the death of a Palestinian girl and the wounding of eight civilians— including five children from the village of Bazabur and two women from the town of Maar Tahroma.

Moreover, eight civilians—including three women and three children in al-Bureij farm, west of Kafr Nabl city— were wounded, in addition to huge damage of property, houses and some facilities, according to the SCD. In addition, a child was killed, and 11 civilians were wounded in raids carried out by Sukhoi Su-30 jets on the residential neighborhoods of Saraqeb, east of Idlib, according to the Kafr Nabl news network.

On Monday 2 December, the Russian warplanes committed a massacre targeting a popular market in the city of Maarat al-Numan, killing 13 civilians and wounding more than 20 others as well as widespread destruction in the market and the region, according to SCD.

Idlib was the site of intensive air attacks and bombardments, as the troops of the Syrian regime, backed by Russian air cover try to advance reaching the axes of eastern countryside of Idlib, amid the fighting factions’ announcement to roll back those continuous attempts of advancement since last week.

Suspending classes in Idlib’s schools 

As a result of the intensified military escalation, the directorate of education in Idlib has suspended classes in the schools of Ariha and Maaret al-Numan in the southern countryside of Idlib.

This was preceded by the suspension of work in all schools of Maarat al-Numan, southern Idlib, by the directorate of education last Sunday, because of what it described as “the brutal attack of regime gangs” on the area.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) documented, on 1 December, the killing of 277 civilians, including 72 children and 32 women; 19 children and 6 women were killed by the Syrian regime forces while 70 civilians, including 26 children and 11 women, were killed by the Russian forces.

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