Unusual military escalation in Syria’s northwest coincides with tension in northeast

IDLIB, Syria (North Press) – Areas in de-escalation zone in northwest Syria continue to suffer under military escalation and mutual shelling between the two parties to the conflict in the country that has worsened since early July.

On Friday, Syrian opposition factions and Turkish forces launched an unprecedented shelling of sites of the Syrian government forces in the countryside of Aleppo, Idlib, Hama and Latakia, northwest Syria.

The escalation followed airstrikes by Russian warplanes that hit houses west of Idlib Governorate, claiming seven lives including children near the village of al-Jadida, north of the city of Jisr al-Shughur.

The Russian airstrikes sparked resentment among residents in Idlib Governorate.

Scores of residents and IDPs in Idlib, in a protest, demanded that Turkish guarantor meets its promises and returns the IDPs to their areas after renewing battles with the government forces.

Unprecedented shelling

Military sources from the opposition told North Press, “Al-Fateh al-Mubin Operations’ Room factions targeted with over 100 artillery shells and missiles sites of the government forces in the city of Suqaylabiyah and the villages of Jurin, al-Bahsa, Na’ur Jurin, Foro, Barakeh, Attera and Nubl al-Khatib west of Hama.”

The shelling, also, hit sites in the town of Qardaha, as well as villages and towns of Slinfah and Salma in the northern countryside of Latakia.

Additionally, Turkish forces stationed in bases in the countryside of Idlib participated in the shelling against the government forces’ sites in al-Dar al-Kabirah, Bsakla and Jbala camp south of Idlib, according to the same sources.

The sources added that al-Fateh al-Mubin Operations’ Room factions hit with dozens missiles and artillery shells the government forces’ positions in the cities and towns of Saraqib, Ma`arat al-Nu`man, Kafr Nabl, the villages of Dadikh, Tel Mardikh, Khan Assubul, Milaja, and Kafr Battikh southeast of Idlib, in addition to other sites in Urem Al-Kubra, Base 46, Mizanaz and Ainjara west of Aleppo.   

 Local sources told North Press that the government forces targeted the opposition sites in the village of Afes east of Idlib and others in the villages of al-maouzrah and al-Fatira in Zawiya Mountain south of Idlib.

The government shelling left several wounded.

This military escalation the de-escalation zone northwest Syria has witnessed is the first of its kind since signing a Russian-Turkish ceasefire agreement in March 2020.

In March 2020, Russia and Turkey reached an agreement in Moscow that stipulated a ceasefire, the establishment of a safe corridor, and the conduct of joint patrols on the M4/Aleppo-Latakia Highway.

Escalation in Syria’s north

The escalation in Syria’s northwest coincides with Turkish military escalation on areas in Syria’s north after Turkey failed to obtain a green light by Russia and Iran, during Tehran Summit, to launch a new military operation against areas it has threatened to invade in northern Syria.

Tehran’s Summit brought presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey together on July 19 with the Syrian issue on the top of its agenda.

Photo caption 2:  Syrian government forces’ position south of Kobani – North Press

In the concluding statement of the summit, Iranian presidency said that the three presidents discussed the current situation on the ground in Syria and emphasized their unwavering commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria.

On Friday, three individuals lost their lives in a Turkish drone attack on a car in the eastern countryside of Qamishli, a city northeast Syria.

On July 21, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Media Center released a statement, saying two SDF fighters lost their lives in a Turkish drone attack on Kobani, north Syria.

On Friday at dawn, a Turkish drone targeted a position of the Syrian government forces in the village of Zor Maghar in the western countryside of the city of Kobani, north Syria.

The Syrian government forces downed, on May 20, a Turkish drone was hovering over the village of al-Sheioukh. The government forces, stationed in the region, targeted it and downed it near the village of Zor Maghar.

As a result of the successive Turkish threats to invade Syria’s north, an agreement was reached between the SDF and the Syrian government, allowing the latter to deploy its forces in the region.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently announced plans to carry out another major military cross-border incursion into northern Syria. Erdogan specified his targets in the two northern Syrian cities of Manbij and Tel Rifaat.

On July 1, Erdogan said that Ankara’s new military operation in northern Syria could begin at any moment.

“The time has come to clear these lands from the terrorist organizations,” Erdogan threatened during Tehran Summit.

“We accepted that the Syrian Army fortifies its posts in Kobani, Manbij and border areas in order to carry out its task to protect Syrian border, and we will do what is needed to avoid war against our areas,” the SDF Commander in Chief said on July 15.

“We do not want war rather we seek to preserve the ceasefire and we continue to do so in this regard,” he stressed in a press conference in the city of Hasakah.

Kobani and its countryside are periodically targeted by Turkish forces though the region is subjected to a ceasefire agreement that has been in force since 2019 and despite Russia-Turkish joint patrols.

Following the Turkish incursion in October 2019, Turkey signed two ceasefire agreements, one with Russia and the other with the US stipulating ceasing all hostilities and the withdrawal of the SDF 32 km away from the Turkish border in addition to conducting Russian-Turkish joint patrols in order to monitor the implementation of the agreements.

The SDF did withdrew from the border areas according to the agreement, but Turkey continues targeting the area.

Since then Russia and Turkey have conducted 106 joint patrols on a weekly basis in both the eastern and western countryside of Kobani.

On July 18, Russian Military Police (MP) and Turkish forces conducted the 106th joint military patrol in the eastern countryside of Kobani.

Reporting by Fansa Temmo