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Turkey's Dangerous Games Causing Idlib Catastrophe

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M4 (Aleppo-Latakia) and M5 (Aleppo-Hama) routes controlled by HTS

The situation is also critical with food supplies. The occupation of a highway running to Bab al-Hawa border crossing by the radicals has resulted in higher prices of goods. According to The Guardian, the locals are afraid of the lack of money to buy food and to pay for fuel. This fact is especially critical when there is a virtual absence of jobs and people can't even receive the minimum wage.

Under the current circumstances, the EU Council's appeal to ensure unimpeded access of humanitarian aid to Idlib sounds more relevant than ever. And Turkey as a guarantor state must provide this opportunity.

Therefore, it can be stated that Erdogan failed to fulfill another point of the Sochi agreements related to the opening of the two key transport routes. On the contrary, the situation with communications in Idlib during the validity of the Memorandum has deteriorated. The various armed entities that had controlled the checkpoints were replaced by HTS jihadists who established their own rules.

For sure, these circumstances provide the preconditions for claims to Erdogan from Moscow, Tehran and Damascus.

Demilitarized-zone issue

As a reminder, the fifth and the sixth points of the Memorandum envisage the withdrawal of the radical armed groups from the demilitarized zone until October, 15, 2018. Tanks, artillery units, MLRS and mortars had to be withdrawn till October, 10, 2018. Turkey has failed this issue too.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militants are strengthening their positions. They are regularly shelling the nearby settlements and building up their forces close to the frontline.

The largest part of Idlib demilitarization area is occupied by the terrorists. The local activists report that around 70% of the territory is seized by radicals. HTS is attacking the Syrian army positions and human settlements.

HTS artillery fire is never interrupted in the al-Tah region, the southern Idlib. Thus, Turkish forces seem to have deliberately violated the Memorandum by not withdrawing the militants out of the province.

There have also been fierce clashes between the jihadists and SAA units on the frontline north-west to Aleppo. During the last one, the government forces succeeded to repulse HTS attack west to Abu Douhur in Idlib.

Sources from SAA say that the militants once used prohibited chemical weapons, which resulted in the hospitalization of two servicemen.

Will chemical weapon be used?

According to the available information, the terrorists' leaders are getting ready to carry out chemical provocation on the eve of an offensive operation. With the aid of European specialists arrived via Turkey, the jihadists have set up chemical weapons depots at 30 towns near Idlib de-escalation area.

It may be indirectly confirmed by the fact that White Helmets are causing a stir around Idlib. Civil defenders have intensified their activity in Idlib lately. They have appeared in the town of Maarat al-Nouman right after it has been captured by HTS, the residents report. Moreover, several hospitals already host equipment the White Helmets have prepared for staged shooting of a chemical attack allegedly conducted by Damascus.

Operational coordination of Islamists

Under the leadership of HTS, a joint command and control organization, the so-called Military Council was created. This body is an operational headquarters with all groups involved, including such former opposition forces as the 1st Coastal Division, Jaysh al-Izza, Suqour al-Sham and a few others.


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Combat training of Jaysh Abu Bakr al-Seddiq affiliated with HTS

Down to Aleppo, Hama and Latakia, the terrorists are forming offensive groups, armed with artillery and tanks. HTS is regularly recruiting mercenaries, training them and guiding their operational coordination. The forced mobilization is conducted among the youth aged 15 to 22. All this is happening in front of Turkish soldiers' eyes while they do absolutely nothing to prevent destabilization. Thus, the whole idea of a demilitarization zone and diplomatic settlement of the situation in Idlib has been compromised.

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