The Syrian province of Idleb continues to be a hotbed for Jihadis. Since the last Turkish Russian ceasefire agreement the Turkish army deployed more and more troops in Idleb to bring the various Jihadis it unofficially supports under control.
The main Jihadi group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), has now taken the role of a Turkish proxy force. All other groups were told to submit to it and after a few rounds of infighting during which dozens were killed most of them did do so.
One condition for the ceasefire was the re-opening of the M4 highway which connects Latakia with Aleppo. Common Turkish Russian patrols were established to control security on the road. If the re-opening does not happen the Syrian and Russian forces will attack to gain control over at least the southern part of the Jihadi held (green) area to regain full control of the economically important road.
HTS and other 'rebels' arranged 'protests' against the first patrols and tried to prevent them. After a few minor incidents Turkey told them to stop it. It is not interested in another round of fighting against the Russian supported Syrian side.
But the trouble continues. Earlier today some Jihadi's
attacked a common Turkish Russian patrol along the M4 highway east of the town Arihah. (Google map)
The suicide attack was by an explosive filled car which had been hidden in a garage right next to the M4. An armored Russian vehicle was thrown off the road and a Turkish mine protected vehicle was damaged. Three Russian soldiers were injured as were several Turkish ones.
A group of Chechen Jihadis, Khattab al-Shishani, claimed responsibility for the attack:
Our Knight attacked the negotiations table, to sign it with his blood, fire, steel and blazing heat.
The group published pictures of the incident.
There is also a video of the attack.
The same group had claimed a similar incident about a month ago. But it is doubtful that such a Chechen group exists at all. The Chechen Jihadis in Syria are not known for suicide bombings. They are mercenaries who train other groups and fight for money. It is more likely that some disgruntled folks from HTS or some other Jihadi outfit are trying to undermine the Turkish role in Idleb and the Turkish-Russian ceasefire agreement.
The Russian military responded to the attack with airstrikes on local headquarters of HTS in Benin and Jabal Al-Zawiya.
The Turkish Defense Ministry issued a statement:
The 21st Turkey-Russia Joint Patrol was targeted by terrorists with a car bomb to disrupt efforts to ensure an environment of peace and trust in Idlib. Two vehicles in the convoy were partially damaged. There was no loss of life. United Patrol Activities carried out within the framework of TR-RF Consensus will continue by taking all necessary measures.
That the Turkish statement speaks of a 'terrorist' attack is interesting. Turkey had always claimed that the Jihadis in Idleb are solely 'moderate rebels' who fight to 'liberate Syria'. That Turkey announced the continuation of the patrols shows that it currently has no interest in any escalation.
But a new escalation will come. Despite all other difficulties caused by sanctions, the pandemic and the economic consequences of Lebanon's bankruptcy Syria and its allies are committed to regain control over Idleb province.
It is Russia that is currently holding them back. But should another attack on a Russian patrol cause serious casualties that restraint is likely to vanish.
Posted by b on July 14, 2020