Syria’s Idlib IDPs fear returning home despite guarantors’ assurances

IDLIB, Syria (North Press) – Sultan al-Youssef, 46, from Zawiya Mountain in the southern countryside of Idlib, northwestern Syria, did not show any attention to the news of Turkish officers calling on the IDPs to return to their homes that they fled from three years ago due to the military operation.

On July 19, Turkish officers met with a number of notables and representatives of the residents of Zawiya Mountain region, and gave assurances to the people that there will be no government or Russian military operation on those areas.

The officers called for the return of the displaced people to their homes, according to a source who attended the meeting.

Military sources told North press that, hours after the meeting, the area witnessed an intensive shelling by the government forces and Russians targeting multiple villages and towns.

False promises

Al-Youssef, from Kansafra Town of Zawiya Mountain said, “Since Turkey’s intervention, the battles stopped and opposition’s areas started to recede, and the regime started to whale on the areas one by one.”

“The Turkish forces handed over the countryside of Hama, Aleppo, and most of Idlib’s southern and eastern countryside to the regime after promising people there that the regime will not attack to their villages, the thing that did not happen though,” al-Youssef added.

The Russian warplanes in the next day, targeted the residents’ houses in al-Jadida village west of Idlib, killing seven civilians including five children, in addition to the injury of more than 13, most of them were children, according to press sources.

The thing that was considered by the people as a message saying: “Do not come back to your houses” and also a challenge to the Turkish forces who are deployed over more than 70 military posts in northwest Syria, according to Al-Youssef. 

Al-Youssef fled from his house in Kansafra town after the attack of the government forces of the town’s surroundings late in 2019, and took refuge in a camp on the Syrian-Turkish border. 

For months, the areas of northwestern Syria have been witnessing military escalation and mutual shelling between the government forces and Turkish-backed armed opposition factions, known as Syrian National Army (SNA), according to press reports prepared by North Press. 

No trust in the Turkish guarantor

“The Turkish forces who asked the IDPs to go back to their houses and promised to protect them, are barely capable of protecting their deployed soldiers over dozens of posts in the Zawiya Mountain uselessly,” said Bassam al-Khalid, 38, from al-Bara town, south of Idlib. 

“How can I get back home and the shelling is ongoing on a daily basis?” he asked.

“So many people are afraid of new military operation by the government forces, especially with the Turkish escalation and military build-ups, knowing that we have seen the same build-ups in Hama, Aleppo and Khan Shaykhun countryside, however it was to protect their posts not for stopping the government forces advance,” al-Khalid added.

He pointed out that the Turkish forces will withdraw in a later like they withdrew from Morek, Sher Maghar, al-Ees and other areas after they were besieged by the government.”

Obeida Delo, 35, an IDP from Belyon town south of Idlib, expressed concern regarding his status and all the other IDPs from the Turkish reassurances.”

“We have lost our faith in the Turkish promises because they made the same promise regarding the areas of Hama and Idlib southern countryside. Now, the Syrian government took control the same areas,” he added.

“At the moment, I live in Aleppo but I visit my village no stop, but I cannot settle down in it due to the lack of necessities of life, due to the ongoing shelling, knowing the Turkish forces are deployed in many posts nearby.” 

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.

Since the beginning of July, several fronts south of Idlib and west of Aleppo have been witnessing an unprecedented military escalation, which is the first of its kind since the signing of the de-escalation agreement between Russia and Turkey in March 2020. 

Reporting by Baha’a al-Nobani