Turkish troops clash with Syrian HTS militants after five protesters shot dead in Idlib

Turkish troops clash with Syrian HTS militants after five protesters shot dead in Idlib
2 min read
26 April, 2020
Turkish troops have shot dead five protesters who were blocking the strategic M4 highway in Syria’s Idlib province, provoking a clash with militants from the HTS Islamist group
Turkish troops have confronted protesters on the M4 highway
Five protesters believed to be affiliated to the hardline Islamist group Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) were shot dead on Sunday morning as Turkish troops tried to forcibly disperse a demonstration on the strategic M4 highway in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province.

Militants from HTS bombed Turkish troops in retaliation.

Under a ceasefire agreement signed in March between Turkey, which supports Syrian rebels, and Russia, which supports the Assad regime, Russian military vehicles can patrol the strategic M4 highway that links the cities of Aleppo and Latakia.

However, protesters have been camped on the M4 since March 4 in order to prevent the Russian military from passing.

Mustafa Mohammed, a Syrian media activist, told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service that Turkish armoured vehicles approached a protest camp near the town of Nairab in Idlib province and removed barricades set up by the protesters, who tried to block their way.

Turkish troops then threw tear gas grenades at the protesters then used gunfire, killing five protesters and injuring several others.

HTS militants then launched mortars at Turkish troops manning a position near Nairab, injuring several of them. 

Turkish troops then targeted HTS's mortar launcher, destroying it and injuring several militants. HTS then attacked a Turkish bulldozer with an anti-personnel missile.

Turkey has tried several times to remove the protest camps on the M4 highway. Some Syrian activists say that the protesters are employees of HTS's self-proclaimed ‘National Salvation Government’.

The protesters have allowed Turkish military patrols to pass along the highway if they are not accompanied by Russian vehicles. Russian vehicles have so far only been able to patrol a small section of the road between Nairab and Saraqeb.

Many Syrian political and military opposition groups have opposed the protests, saying that they could give Russia and the regime an excuse to violate the Russian-Turkish ceasefire agreement.

The regime has violated the current ceasefire several times and along with Russia, broken numerous ceasefire and de-escalation agreements in the past.

On Sunday morning, the regime bombed several towns in Idlib province, including Bara and Beneen.

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