Fri 28 Feb 2020

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Will Erodgan carry out his military threat after Assad’s encircling of Saraqib?

A tank of the Syrian regime forces inside the city of Maarat al-Numan -  31 January 2020 (Oleg Blokhin)

A tank of the Syrian regime forces inside the city of Maarat al-Numan -  31 January 2020 (Oleg Blokhin)

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The Syrian government forces, supported by the Russian air force, have surrounded Saraqib, a key-rebel held city in the eastern countryside of Idlib in Syria’s northwest after they seized control of towns in the northern and eastern parts of the city.

Saraqib is strategically important so that Turkey deployed several hundred troops to four observation posts there.

 Enab Baladi’s correspondent in the province of Idlib, reported today, Thursday, 6 February, that the Syrian regime forces have captured Sheikh Mansour and reached the north of the city by advancing towards the village of Afes.

The correspondent added that by taking control of Afes, the Syrian regime forces have completely cordoned off Saraqib. 

For its part, al-Mohrar Media Networker, a news outlet linked to the Turkey-backed National Liberation Front (NLF), emphasized that the Syrian regime took control of Afes. Thus, the Syrian government has fully imposed siege on the entrances of Saraqib.

Al-Mohrar highlighted that the Turkish military posts targeted the sites of the Syrian regime with artillery fire in retaliation.

Furthermore, the Turkish Armed Forces activated the jamming devices to prevent the Syrian air power from communicating with the airfield to carry out the airstrikes.

The regime forces had been trying to besiege Saraqib for days. Thus, the Syrian regime forces succeeded at the end to blockade Saraqib from its western side after they controlled the towns of Nayrab and Tronba. Besides, they controlled the village of Tell  Mardikh in the south of the city.

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.

 Turkey responded to the killing of its soldiers by bombing areas of the regime forces, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced.

Erdogan also threatened, yesterday, 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.

On the other hand, the Syrian government merely responded to Erdogan’s threats by recalling the Adana agreement signed between the two countries at the end of the nineties of the last century.

According to the Syrian-state run news agency (SANA), a source in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on 5 February that “Adana agreement aims to maintain cooperation between the two countries. As a result, Erdogan cannot, according to the obligations of this agreement, act unilaterally.”

 

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