Amid the ongoing Russian-Syrian military offensive to liberate Idlib province from the al-Qaeda linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, suburbs near Aleppo have been scene of intense fighting in recent days, despite government forces liberating the major northern city in December 2016, which marked a turning point in the war.
Turkish-backed Syrian rebels have in recent days and weeks mounted new insurgent attacks on the outskirts of the provincial capital city at a moment the Syrian Army has made huge gains into neighboring Idlib. A key reason Damascus has vowed to retake every inch of Idlib is that for years al-Qaeda has launched terrorist attacks on suburbs of Aleppo from there as civilians and the government attempt to rebuild the largely destroyed urban center.
This latest renewed fighting in Aleppo appears a concerted effort by Turkey to use its proxy forces to repel and distract the brunt of the Syrian Army offensive on Idlib, considering on Friday President Erdogan warned he’s ready to use military force if Assad doesn’t halt Idlib operations.
Syrian insurgents carried out at least three car bomb attacks against government forces west of Aleppo on Saturday and opened a new front northeast of the city, an attempted fight back after territorial advances by Damascus. — Jerusalem Post
“We will not allow the regime’s cruelty towards its own people, with attacks and causing bloodshed,” Erdogan said. Ankara has been alarmed that hundreds of thousands of civilians are now trying to flee the embattled province toward the Turkish border.
“Turkey with complete sincerity wants Syria’s stability and security, and to this end, we will not shy away from doing whatever is necessary, including using military force.”
Erdogan has also accused Russia of violating key agreements for a reduction in fighting in Idlib, while Moscow has cited ongoing attacks against its nearby Hmeimim airbase launched by HTS insurgents based in Idlib. Over the past years HTS and affiliate jihadist groups have also attacked civilian areas of western Aleppo.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded to Erdogan’s charge by pointing out Idlib is a haven for terrorists who launch attacks on civilians as well as Russian and Syrian forces.
Turkey has lately said it is hosting over 3 million Syrian refugees and has demanded that Europe provide more support in the form of backing Erdogan’s ‘safe zone’ plan which seeks to establish a ‘refugee city’ using annexed northern Syrian territory (which the Turkish army has recently wrested from Syrian Kurdish forces backed by the US).
Erdogan has also recently threatened to “open the gates” of millions of refugees on Europe if it doesn’t received political support. Needless to say, we are headed toward the final Syrian war showdown over Idlib.
Just this week the Kremlin warned that anti-government militants in Idlib are planning a major alarming new ‘chemical provocation’ in order to draw in support from external powers like the United States.
Russia’s TASS reported not for the first time that “Terrorists are plotting new chemical attacks to claim once again that chemical weapons are being used on the Syrian territory, Russia’s UN envoy Vassily Nebenzia told the UN Security Council on Wednesday.”
“We would also like to draw attention to diplomatic notes by the Syrian Arab Republic’s permanent mission to the UN and to media reports about terrorists plotting to organize more provocations and staged chemical incidents in Syria,” the Russian diplomat said.