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Syria to launch new offensive in Idlib as Turkey deadline passes

Turkish soldiers patrol along a road atop the Arbaeen hill overlooking Ariha in the southern countryside of Syria's Idlib province on May 26, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Syrian government forces have been preparing to launch an offensive against militants in Idlib after Turkey failed to live up to its commitments under a deal with Russia.

A senior Syrian field source said the Syrian army has sent big military reinforcements to contact lines with armed terrorist groups in Idlib countryside after its positions came under frequent attacks by militant groups.

The source told Sputnik Arabic that the movements of the militants have become “completely exposed to the monitoring units of the Syrian army”.

Government forces, the source said, had destroyed the militants' armored vehicles and military equipment and foiled their attempts to attack army positions over the past week.

The source said an extended deadline given to Turkey by Russia in order to open the strategic M4 highway in Idlib in a peaceful manner had ended.

“It seems that the Turks are not serious in dealing with this matter, and they could not at least control the armed groups,” the source said, adding the Turkish military's aid to the militants still continues. 

Syria's government forces, the source said, are currently “putting the finishing touches to the military operation plan”, in coordination with their allies.

The Syrian army’s next goal is to regain control over some strategic areas, including Jabal al-Zawiya in Idlib and the rest of al-Ghaab Plain in Hama countryside.

The source declined to reveal the exact date for the start of the operation, but noted that “the Idlib offensive is just around the corner”.

Idlib is home to several anti-government militant outfits receiving Turkish support. Late last year, Syria launched an anti-terror operation against the foreign-sponsored militants after they failed to honor a de-escalation agreement between Ankara and Moscow.

Idlib tensions mounted late in February after an airstrike by Syrian forces killed dozens of Turkish soldiers, whom Russia said were “in the battle formations of terrorist groups.”

Shortly afterwards, Ankara waged its fourth incursion into Syria, dubbed Spring Shield, which escalated Idlib tensions.

Turkey has been manning a number of observation posts in Idlib since 2018, when it struck an agreement with Russia.

On March 5, Russia and Turkey, which support opposite sides in the Syrian conflict, came to an agreement on a ceasefire regime in Idlib, where Turkish aggression against the Syrian government had risked starting a war.

According to the agreement, joint Russian-Turkish patrols would secure a six-kilometer-wide corridor along the M4 highway connecting the two government-held provinces of Latakia and Aleppo.

The ceasefire also consolidates Syrian control over the M5 highway which links the capital Damascus to the major cities of Hama, Homs, and Aleppo.

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