The Turkish military is preparing to reopen and oversee the opposition-held part of the strategic Damascus-Aleppo highway as a part of the Russian-Turkish agreement, which was reached last September, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on March 8.
“Vehicles of the Turkish military were experimentally deployed in positions near Jarjnaz and in the southern Aleppo countryside near the international highway,” the SOHR quoted local sources as saying.
More than 100km of the Damascus-Aleppo highway passes through the opposition-held part of northwestern Syria. This strip of the highway is under the control of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the former branch of al-Qaeda in Syria.
Earlier, the Turkish military began patrolling the demilitarized zone around Idlib. Hulusi Akar, Ankara’s Defense Minister, said that these patrols are aimed at stabilized the situation there.
Despite this step, HTS and its allies continued their attacks on the residential areas around Idlib and launched several rockets at the government-held town of Mahardah. This led to an exchange of artillery fire.
The hostile behavior of HTS indicates that the group will oppose the Turkish attempt to reopen the Damascus-Aleppo highway. If this happens, it would be another major setback to the Russian-Turkish de-confliction agreement.