Farmers leave their lands for fear of military operation in Syria’s Hama

HAMA, Syria (North Press) – Yahya al-Shaher, a farmer from Ziyarah sub-district in Ghab Plain area, west of Hama, central Syria, does not intend to cultivate his land this year, for fear of displacement from his area and the failure to harvest his crop, in light of reports of an imminent government military operation in the area.

The farmer owns about 15 acres and intended to plant them with nigella, but the increased frequency of bombing and Russian and Turkish statements made him wait until the fate of the area becomes clear.

Al-Shaher said that any government military operation in Zawiya Mountain, south of Idlib and Ghab Plain, will end with its control within a short period, “The matter was agreed upon in advance. As for the deployed Turkish points, they were set only to protect the Syrian regime and facilitate its progress, and this is what we had previously seen.”

Every year at this time, farmers in the villages and towns of Ghab Plain, the last area held by the Syrian armed factions in the countryside of Hama, begin to prepare lands and fields for planting winter season.

However, fears of the government forces’ advance in the area, which has been witnessing a military escalation for some time, prompted some farmers to refrain from cultivating their lands this year, while others rented it to some influential people, who have good relations with government checkpoints.

For months, the de-escalation zone in northwestern Syria has been witnessing a military escalation and mutual bombing between the Turkish-backed armed factions and Russian-backed government forces, despite the ceasefire agreement signed by Russia and Turkey two years ago.

Recently, Russian statements escalated after the summit between Putin and Erdogan, regarding the necessity of clearing Idlib from terrorists, followed by noticeable escalation on the ground.

New exchange process

Residents and farmers in Ghab Plain, whom North Press interviewed, said the recent Russian statements about Idlib, in addition to similar Turkish statements threatening the areas of northeastern Syria, confirm the intention of the two sides to conduct a new exchange process, which has become clear to most residents in northwestern regions.

The residents relied on their experience over the past years, as Turkey handed over the northern and western countryside of Hama, the southern and eastern Idlib countryside and Aleppo western countryside to the Syrian government in exchange for obtaining border areas in northeastern Syria, in several phases, “it seems that we are entering a new phase similar to the previous ones,” residents said.

Recently, official media outlets reported Turkish officials’ threats, including Turkish President Erdogan, talking about an imminent military operation against northeastern Syria.

“The situation does not bode well”

Yassin Hamid, a farmer in Ghab Plain area, will not risk cultivating his land, “the situation does not bode well.”

The farmer does not guarantee that he will harvest his crops especially that the intensity of the bombing is increasing day by day, “the regime is mobilizing on one side and Turkey is silent on the other.”

Hamid indicated that they visited the Turkish point in the town of Qastoun several times, but “we did not hear from them any convincing answer, and sometimes they say that they will defend the area if the regime advances, but in fact the Turkish point itself was not safe during the last government bombings.

In previous statements to North Press, Mustafa Bakour, the official spokesperson for Jaysh al-Izza (the Army of Glory, an armed faction affiliated with Syrian armed factions operating in Idlib), did not rule out that Turkey would hand over areas south of Idlib and the surrounding areas to the government in exchange for new gains at the expense of the SDF in the areas of northeastern Syria.

Reporting by Bara’ al-Shami

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