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Turkish forces have been passing through hard times in northwestern Syria.
First a mysterious ‘heart attack’ that killed a Turkish general in Idlib. Then, Turkish military positions in the province of Aleppo were devastated by a series of rocket strikes. Rockets pounded the so-called ‘observation post’ of the Turkish military near the town of Xezwe on September 12. Later on the same day, when Turkish reinforcements deployed in the area, the Xezwe post was once again shelled by unguided rockets. Photos and videos from the ground showed that the strike caused notable damage, while pro-militant sources also claimed that several Turkish troops were injured.
The Turkish Armed Forces responded to the attack by striking positions of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Aqiybah, Sughanka and Burj al-Qas.
On September 13, the Afrin Liberation Forces, an armed group affiliated with the YPG, claimed responsibility for the strikes on Turkish positions. This group regularly conducts attacks on the Turkish Army and Turkish proxies in the region of Afrin. It did not reveal details of the operation, but pro-Turkish sources claim that Kurdish rebels may have carried out their attacks the area of Qala’at Kaluta near the town of Kabashin.
On September 12, two explosions hit the Turkish-occupied town of Ras al-Ayn in northeastern Syria. The first explosion caused by an improvised explosive device took place in the Haj Wassfi alley. The second explosion, a booby-trapped motorcycle, erupted near the central bakery. At least 4 civilians were killed.
Pro-Turkish sources accused the YPG of conducting this attack. However, this time the main suspect is ISIS. The YPG and its allied groups focus their attacks on mostly military targets.
On top of this, the Syrian Army and its allies carried out a series of rocket and artillery strikes on positions of Turkish-backed terrorists, mostly members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, in the southern part of Greater Idlib on September 13 and 14.
According to pro-militant sources, government forces launched over 400 rockets and shells on terrorists’ positions near Fatterah, Kafar Aweed, Sufuhon, Kansafra, al-Bara, Shnan, Fleifel and Benin. Pro-government sources claim that a few dozen terrorists were eliminated or injured in the strikes.
Just a few days earlier, warplanes of the Russian Aerospace Forces bombed fortified positions and training camps of terrorists near Jisr al-Shughur and Sheikh Yusuf. Airstrikes by unidentified combat drones, most likely Iranian ones, also pounded a fortified point of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham near al-Bara. Media outlets affiliated with terrorists or Turkey did not provide details regarding the real impact of the strike claiming that they targeted civilian targets only. Pro-Russian sources speculated that up to 100 Turkish-backed terrorists were eliminated. Nonetheless, this number is questionable.
Turkey is not hurrying up to fulfill its commitments under the Idlib de-escalation deal and neutralize al-Qaeda-linked terrorists in its area of responsibility. Instead, Ankara continues military and financial support to these groups aiming to turn the al-Qaeda-held part of northwestern Syria into a pseudo state under a Turkish protectorate or even annex this territory.
So, it seems that the Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance has opted to take the initiative into its own hands and make real steps to deal with the terrorist threat in Idlib.