Russian, Turkish proxies poised to intensify clashes in Syria’s Idlib

Parties opposed to the Russian-backed regime in Syria have been re-enforced by Turkey in recent days, according to two senior opposition forces and officials from Moscow.

Reuters reported it was told by senior opposition and rebel sources on Saturday that Ankara has sent fresh supplies ahead of an expected Russian-backed offensive in western Idlib.

Additionally, Russia and Turkey have sponsored a string of working meetings aimed to de-escalate the situation and avoid further humanitarian crises.

Russian Maj. Gen. Viktor Kupschishin told TASS state-run news that nearly 1,000 Jabhat al-Nusra fighters were a part of the build-up in western Syria.

“Over the past two days, more than 800 militants, at least seven tanks, three armored infantry carries, 15 pickup trucks with heavy machineguns have been pulled to the southwestern part of the Idlib de-escalation zone. According to reconnaissance data, terrorists are planning to use from 2-4 cars stuffed with explosives and driven by suicide bombers to stage an offensive on the Syrian army,” he said.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported air attacks in Idlib throughout last week. It claimed the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was behind them.

The Russian general told TASS it was possible illegal armed groups may stage false-flag attacks, including the use of chemical weapons.

Syria’s state-run SANA news agency reported clashes in Idlib on Saturday between government-backed and al-Nusra fighters.

According to SANA, the operations killed and wounded a group of terrorists. It added the operations destroyed weaponry including rocket launchers and arms.

The operations reportedly were in response to attacks earlier on Saturday staged by Turkish-backed militants on civilian houses, and public and private properties with RPGs in two villages on the in northern outskirts of Hama governorate.

On Friday, the Syrian forces destroyed dwellings belonging to the Nusra Front militants in Khan Sheikhoun, Habibat, Ahrash, Abidin, Muhayat Khas and Kafr Nabeel, SANA claimed.

The United Nations provided humanitarian assistance to Idlib on Thursday via a convoy of 31 trucks, Middle East Monitor reported. They entered from Turkey’s Hatay province.

Earlier this month, UN head of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo warned of the situation in Idlib mirroring previous calamities in Aleppo, Eastern Ghouta, and Raqqa.

“If the escalation continues, and the offensive pushes forward, we risk catastrophic humanitarian fallout and threats to international peace and security,” she said.

She warned “with great concern” of intensifying violence that reportedly has killed more than 100 civilians and forced around 180,000 IDPs into secondary displacement.

Some 400,000 people have been killed because of the Syrian conflict that broke out in 2011.