Syria rebels capture key Idlib village, as Turkey warns Assad regime against further attacks

Syria rebels capture key Idlib village, as Turkey warns Assad regime against further attacks
The Idlib village of Al-Nayrab was recaptured by Syrian opposition fighters, as Russian and Syrian regime airstrikes killed scores in the Idlib and Allepo countryside.
3 min read
04 February, 2020
Control of smaller villages and towns have proven an indispensable tactic to Assad's forces [Getty]
Syrian rebels took control of a village in the Idlib countryside early Tuesday morning, as more Turkish troops were deployed to Idlib, after Ankara launched retaliatory strikes against regime positions in the opposition province on Monday. 

Idlib's Al-Nayrab village, located on the critical M4 highway linking Aleppo with regime stronghold of Latakia, have been in the hands of government forces, who captured the area with the aid of Russian bombing during their push northwards.    

Suspected Russian and Syrian regime airstrikes in Aleppo province have also killed and injured at least 24 civillians, including nine members of the same family.

Photographs shared on Twitter show warplanes circling the sites of Tuesday's deadly bombing campaign.

Control over smaller villages in the Idlib and Aleppo countryside, as well as blocking strategic highways, have proved to be a key tactic of the Syrian regime's final offensive in the country's northwest and laying the groundwork for the seige of much larger urban centres, according to The New Arab.

The risk of full-blown conflict

Tensions between Ankara and Damascus have increased dramatically after government forces shelled Turkish positions in the flashpoint town of Saraqeb early on Monday.

Five Turkish soldiers were killed and seven others injured, when a Turkish military convoy of 240 soldiers, which entered the region through the country's southern border, came under fire.

In ferocious retaliatory ground and air attacks, Turkish Defence Minister Hulus Akar claimed 76 soldiers fighting for Assad been "neutralised" by Turkish forces. 

"Those who test the determination of Turkey with such cowardly attacks will understand they are making a grave mistake,” Erdogan told Turkish television in Istanbul in the aftermath, before leaving on a scheduled visit to Ukraine. 

Read more: Turkey retaliates against Syrian regime attack in Idlib

The attacks also raise fears that Ankara could launch a full-blown military operation, which threaten to damage already fragile Russian-Turkish military agreements in the region.

In 2018, Erdogan's government signed the Sochi pact with Russia, a ceasefire agreement to prevent a military offensive which would have had more than three million cvillians fleeing across the border into Turkey.

Yet the de-escalation deal has gradually fallen apart as the regime resumed its assault on rebel-held towns and villages near the Turkish border, backed by Russian airstrikes.

"If Russia is unable to control the Assad regime from targeting us, we will not hesitate to take actions against any threat, just as we did today in Idlib," the Turkish presidency's communications director Fahrettin Altun wrote on Twitter.

The Turkish president also himself warned Assad's backers in Moscow not to stand in the way of Turkish action.

Yet the Russian defence ministry said that on Monday blaned Ankara for Monday's clashes.

"Turkish troops were changing locations at night in the Idlib de-escalation zone without informing the Russian side," the Russian ministry said in a statement.

Bill Park, a visiting research fellow at King’s College London who spoke to Arab News, said that he had been expecting tensions to rise between Turkey and Russia.

"I find it hard to believe that Russia will allow Turkey to inflict serious damage on Syrian forces, so my guess is that Turkey will inflict only token damage on Syrian forces."

"If Turkey hits back hard, I predict that Russia will strike Turkish forces hard," Park added.

Agencies contributed to this report. 

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