08/24/2019, 17.55
SYRIA – TURKEY
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Syrian forces advance towards Idlib, surround Turks in Mork

by Pierre Balanian

The fall of Khan Sheikhoun marks the beginning of an offensive that should lead to the liberation of Idlib. Syria, which seems to have wrecked the deal between Moscow and Ankara, wants to expel the Turks from its territory. Everything points to a war between Syria and Turkey, not between the Syrian regime and mercenaries in Idlib, backed by Ankara and Doha. Encircling Mork is a direct response to the US-Turkish decision to create a safe zone in northern Syria.

Damascus (AsiaNews) – The Syrian army now controls the Idlib-Hama road after it seized Khan Sheikhoun two days ago. No Al Nusra fighters remain in Hama province, which is now in the hands of government forces.

According to local sources, the fall of Khan Sheikhoun means that Idlib is now ready for liberation. Together with Afghanistan, the city has one of the highest concentrations of terrorists in the world. Its fall will lead to the liberation of all occupied lands in the north and south of the country.

A few years ago, ​​Khan Sheikhoun was one of the places where "white helmets" reported a notorious sarin gas attacks against civilians, a claim other sources dismissed as fake news.

The fall of Khan Sheikhoun marks a turning point in relations between Syria, Russia, Turkey and Iran.

According to Syrian parliamentary sources, Moscow had until now urged Syria to show restraint, which enabled Ankara to prevaricate over the past year, holding up the deal agreed in Astana.

Now it seems the Syrian government has run out of patience, and the Syrian army has crossed Russia’s red lines for keeping regional and international relations on an even keel.

These lines no longer count for the Syrian regime. "Moscow is an ally and must support us and no longer object to what goes against Syrian interests," can be read in Tishreen, a Syrian daily newspaper.

Turkey sent reinforcements 15 days ago in order to force Syrian forces to pull back and not carry out any attacks. However, the Syrian army did not stop and yesterday managed to encircle a forward Turkish military observation post south of Idlib, in Mork.

Now everything points to a war between Syria and Turkey, not between Syrian forces and mercenaries in Idlib, backed by Ankara and Doha.

"The question is not whether Mork will be evacuated, but how it will be done," said someone on Syrian Radio yesterday.  

The same source said that secret talks between the Russians and Turks are underway to ensure a less humiliating retreat for Ankara. Other sources are saying that foreign and Turkish personnel in Mork are in flight. Conversely, some videos posted yesterday on social media, suggest that fighters and personnel are still in Mork.

According to several analysts, the decision to encircle Mork appears to be Syria’s direct response to the Turkish-American decision to create a safe zone in northern Syria. The Assad regime seems to be saying – "This is Syrian land and it will be liberated" – whilst suggesting to the Americans and the Kurds not to rely too much on Turkish resolve in Syria.

Meanwhile, Russian planes continue to pound positions and depots of sophisticated weapons recently brought into Idlib.

Syria has opened a humanitarian corridor to allow civilians to flee from combat zones, guaranteeing them protection, logistical and health aid and immunity for those not responsible for war crimes.

Many civilians have already come through, but many, especially those who took up arms against the government, and their families, have opted to pull back to Idlib. The latter’s defence appears however to be increasingly flimsy.

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