Free Syrian Army Gets Involved in Idlib Battle, Sparking Turkish-Russian Tensions

Free Syrian Army Gets Involved in Idlib Battle, Sparking Turkish-Russian Tensions

Friday, 12 January, 2018 - 06:45
Displaced families from a village in southern Idlib. (AFP)
Beirut, Ankara, Moscow - Nazeer Rida and Asharq Al-Awsat
Factions from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) got involved on Thursday in the Idlib battle after launching a counter-offensive against Syrian regime forces and their allies in the province to push back their advance towards the Abu Dhuhur military airport.

Two military operation rooms were later formed in the north of the province to the direct the battles.

Rebel fighters recaptured a number of villages in the countryside of Idlib and Hama from regime forces.

Photos released by pro-opposition activists, Faylaq Al-Sham and the FSA, showed that those factions have been supplied with Turkish manufactured Type Dragon armored vehicles to combat the regime.

Activists said those photos revealed for the first time the use of Turkish-made equipment, including armored vehicles, in battles against regime forces.

Syrian opposition sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that some factions had long ago received those vehicles, adding that their appearance on Thursday was a very important Turkish message to Russia that Ankara supports counter-attacking regime forces advancing in Idlib.

Turkey is worried about the deployment of Syrian regime forces and their allies in the north of Idlib, where they have established bases, which they said are part of an agreement with Iran and Russia to establish a de-escalation zone in the province.

Turkish presidential sources said that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the phone Thursday and told him that Moscow should stop Syrian attacks on its opposition in Idlib and eastern Ghouta near Damascus, if he wants peace negotiations to succeed.

Also on Thursday, Putin told Russian newspaper editors in a meeting broadcast on state TV that the drone attack on the Russian base in Syria was not launched by Turkey, but was a provocation aimed at destroying previous agreements.

"There were some provocateurs, but they were not Turks. We know who they are, who paid for this provocation and what the actual sum was,” he was quoted by TASS as saying.

No side has claimed responsibility for the drone attack, raising speculation about who may be behind it with fingers being pointed at various players on the Syrian scene.

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