Turkish soldiers during alert drills at a military outpost on the Turkey Syria border in Kilis Turkey
19 August, 2019, 21:27
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, and Idlib-based opposition activist Mazen al-Shami, reported that Syrian troops reached the M5 highway north of Khan Sheikhoun, making it more hard for rebels and civilians to move between Idlib and rebels in northern parts of Hama province.
Idlib province is the last major part of Syria largely controlled by various armed groups, some of them hardcore jihadists.
Three civilians were killed and 12 more were wounded during an attack on a Turkish military convoy in Syria's Idlib, the Turkish national defense ministry said on Monday.
The air strikes hit near the convoy that was approaching frontlines in Idlib province, two Turkey-backed rebel sources and a war monitor said.
Citing a foreign ministry source, Syrian state media reported that Turkish vehicles loaded with munitions were deployed on Monday to support rebels fighting a government offensive on the key Idlib town of Khan Sheikhun, which lies on a strategic highway.
Militant group Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, led by Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate, controls most of Idlib province as well as parts of the neighboring provinces of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia.
Turkey backs the rebels who have been in control of the region since 2012, while Russian Federation backs Syrian President Bashar Assad's government, which has vowed to take back Idlib.
Turkey and Russian Federation agreed last September to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
The ministry also said it had notified Russian Federation about the convoy in advance.
Syria strongly condemned the entry of the Turkish convoy carrying ammunition, weapons and equipment through the Syrian-Turkish border on their way to Khan Sheikhun, according to the Syrian SANA news agency. The latest round of fighting in the past month has displaced some 450,000 people. The pro-government Al-Watan online and the Observatory reported that Syrian troops have entered Khan Sheikhoun from the northwest.
Khan Sheikhoun was the scene of a chemical attack on April 4, 2017 that killed 89 people.
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.