On February 6th, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a statement on the situation in the Syrian province of Idlib, providing some background on why the Syrian Arab Army’s offensive needs to continue.
In the statement, the Russian side outlines that in December 2019 and January 2020, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) intensified their attacks on positions of the Syrian Arab Army and on the nearby cities, and Aleppo in particular.
“In December 2019, more than 1,400 attacks by militants using tanks, machine guns, infantry fighting vehicles, mortar and artillery shellings were recorded.”
In the last two weeks of January alone, more than 1,000 attacks were reportedly recorded. The count of dead and wounded among the Syrian troops and civilians outside the de-escalation zone went to hundreds.
These terrorists also brutally suppressed demonstrations by citizens inside Idlib, protesting against the domination by militants, and they prevented any extraction of civilians by shelling the humanitarian corridors, according to the statement.
“In fact, the jihadists have taken the population of the Idlib de-escalation hostage and use it as a human shield.”
The Ministry also said at Russian and Turkish military experts being killed in January:
“In mid-January, the Russian and Turkish military made another attempt to introduce a “ceasefire” in the Idlib de-escalation zone. But the terrorists not only did not reduce their combat activity, but rather increased attacks.
Russian and Turkish military experts were tragically killed. Attempts to attack the Russian Hmeimim airbase with the use of attack drones do not stop.”
The Russian side provided no further details. However, other reports from the ground allow to suggests that a possible fire exchange between Russian and Turkish forces took place.
This is of note, since the only casualties Turkey reported were a result from Syrian Arab Army strikes on its observation post, to which it retaliated.
The only incident that even mentions Russian troops being harmed and having died in recent weeks took place on February 1st. Reportedly, 4 Russian service members were killed in an attack by HTS on Western Aleppo.
The Russian statement is a strange way of reporting casualties either caused by Turkish aggression or Turkish-backed militants, it is also reporting on Turkish casualties, not admitted by Ankara itself.
The statement, however, continues saying that the terrorists in Idlib had become unacceptably strong, enjoying impunity and freedom of action.
“The transfer of part of the armed formations from the de-escalation zone, first to the northeast of Syria, and then to Libya, brought the concentration of radicals to a critical limit.”
Furthermore, the statement reads that the Syrian Arab Army is fighting on its sovereign land, against terrorists recognized as such by the UN Security Council, despite Turkey claiming that they are humanitarian workers that assist civilians primarily in being killed in various ways.
“And there should not be any discrepancies. We are talking about the national territory of the Syrian Arab Republic and the militants, to fight with which is not only a right, but also an obligation of the government.”
In this regard, attention was drawn to a number of statements of Western countries, primarily the United States, in which they try to present the HTS terrorists as moderate opposition and fence them off under the pretext of establishing a cessation of hostilities
The Russian ministry also pointed out the discrepancy in US policy, and its hypocritical activity. At one point, Idlib is filled with “moderate opposition” and “fighters for democracy,” and at the same time it is being subject to airstrikes by US forces, in attempts to kill Abu Bakr al-Baghdad and other al-Qaeda-affiliated elements.
“It must be recalled that the same Americans launched a series of arbitrary air strikes against Idlib under the pretext of combating terrorists, including the destruction of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The question arises: so who then, in Washington’s opinion, controls Idlib — the terrorists or the moderate opposition led by al-Qaeda field commanders?
Finally, statements of solidarity with Turkey, regarding which the White House imposed sanctions and demanded condemnation against the background of Operation Peace Spring, are at the top of cynicism and duplicity.”
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