Thursday, 19 September, 2019

Air strikes hit near Turkish convoy in Idlib - Syrian Observatory

Map of territorial control in northern Hama  southern Idlib provinces as of Monday morning Map of territorial control in northern Hama southern Idlib provinces as of Monday morning
Patty Aguilar | 19 August, 2019, 18:31

The Turkish Defense Ministry's brief statement did not provide further details but "strongly condemned" the airstrikes, adding that they were "against existing agreements as well as our cooperation and dialogue with Russian".

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group said the convoy was stationary on the Damascus-Aleppo global highway when the area was bombed.

The Idlib region is supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a buffer zone deal signed between government ally Russian Federation and rebel backer Turkey in September. Fighters from a Turkish-backed rebel force have joined the defence, he said.

Air strikes hit positions near a Turkish convoy which was stuck at a highway in northwest Syria after crossing into Idlib province on Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The Sham Network, an activist collective, posted photos of the Turkish convoy - a mushroom of smoke, apparently from the airstrike, could be seen in the distance.

The Russian government had been supplied with "advance information" about the convoy's route, the ministry said.

Syrian state media said the convoy entered Syria on Monday to help insurgents in the town of Khan Sheikhoun who are fighting a government advance, calling it an act of aggression.

The Observatory's chief, Rami Abdurrahman, said Turkish aircraft were flying over the area where the convoy had stopped, adding that another Turkish convoy was also heading from northern Idlib province toward the convoy.

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The army has closed in on the town from the east and west since a brief ceasefire collapsed earlier this month.

The ministry said "this hostile behavior of the Turkish regime" wouldn't affect Syrian troops' push into Khan Sheikhoun.

The de-escalation zone is now inhabited by about four million civilians, including hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the regime forces from cities and towns throughout the war-weary country in recent years.

Lately there has been heavy fighting near Khan Sheikhoun between Damascus forces and the group controlling the city, predominantly the Islamist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTC), formerly known as Nusra Front.

Khan Sheikhun was hit by a chemical attack that killed more than 80 people in April 2017, attributed to the Syrian regime by the United Nations and global experts.

Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey.

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