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Saraqib falls out of opposition control… What will happen to Turkey’s military observation post?

Syrian regime forces on the outskirts of Maarat al-Numan in the province of Idlib in north-western Syria - 28 January 2020 (ANNA)

Syrian regime forces on the outskirts of Maarat al-Numan in the province of Idlib in north-western Syria - 28 January 2020 (ANNA)

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The Syrian regime forces have recaptured the strategic city of  Saraqib in the eastern countryside of Idlib, amid talks about the withdrawal of opposition factions and Turkish military observation posts from the region.

Enab Baladi’s correspondent in the province of Idlib reported that the regime forces entered the rebel city of Saraqib yesterday, Thursday, 6 February. A leader in the al-Fateh al-Mubeen operation room, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed this information to Enab Baladi.

The leader added that the regime forces entered and started to install and fortify its military points inside the city.

The Syrian regime announced, via the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), the entry of its forces into the city’s neighborhoods and the start of conducting combing operations in the city.

This coincided with conflicting news about the fate of the Turkish observation post that surrounded the city from the four directions, as Yeni Şafak, a conservative Turkish daily newspaper, pointed out that the bombing was an attempt to force the Syrian Arab Army to withdraw.

Yeni Şafak emphasized in its issue today, 7 February, that the Turkish troops have not retreated and responded to the source of the attack.

Al-Mohrar Media Networker, a news outlet linked to the Turkey-backed National Liberation Front (NLF), stressed, via its Telegram account, that Turkey has not withdrawn its military observation posts.

The regime forces advanced deep in the Idlib countryside and were able to encircle Saraqib by taking control of the town of Nayrab, west of the city, and the northern village of Afes.

The city, Saraqib, sits at the intersection of two main highways: The “M5” highway which is linking the political capital (Damascus) to the economic capital (Aleppo) and the M4 highway which is connecting the provinces of Latakia and Aleppo (the country’s west and east). Herein lies the importance of retaking control of the city by the Syrian regime and its ally Russia.

Because of the importance of the two highways, Turkey set up four observation posts around Saraqib in an attempt to prevent the advance of the Syrian regime forces.

Seven Turkish troops were killed in the Syrian regime bombing of the region, which raised the tension between Turkey and Russia.

Erdogan also threatened on 5 February, to launch a massive military operation in Idlib if the regime forces continued to advance and encircle the Turkish observation posts in Idlib countryside.

Erdogan said in a speech to deputies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) bloc in Ankara that “our air and ground forces will move when needed freely in all our areas of operations and Idlib, and they will carry out military operations if necessary.”

He also warned that Turkey would retaliate against any attacks on its troops or Turkey’s backed factions without hesitation, regardless of who will carry out those attacks.

Erdogan established a time-limit for the withdrawal of the Syrian regime forces behind the Turkish observation posts in the Idlib de-escalation zone in northern Syria until the end of February.

However, the Syrian regime did not give Turkish threats any importance. It continued to advance in the area, with the support of the Russian air force, pending Turkey’s response and the execution of its threats.

Thus, after prolonged clashes between the opposition forces and the Syrian regime forces, the regime regained control of the strategic city of Saraqib at the end. The residents in the area are waiting for the new Turkish-Russian understandings and the outcomes of the meetings between the Russian and Turkish officials.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu declared on 6 February that a Russian military delegation would visit Turkey to discuss the fate of the last rebel stronghold of Idlib.

النسخة العربية من المقال

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