World, Middle East

Assad regime seizes nearly half of Idlib despite deals

Since Sochi deal, over 1,800 civilians killed in attacks by regime, Russian forces as ceasefire continues to be violated

Selen Temizer, Adham Kako, Mehmet Burak Karacaoglu and Esref Musa   | 11.02.2020
Assad regime seizes nearly half of Idlib despite deals

IDLIB, Syria

Despite designation of Idlib as a de-escalation zone in May 2017, Syrian regime forces have continued their attacks, taking over further areas.

As of 2018, regime forces wrested control of 3,000 square kilometers (roughly 1,160 square miles), including the strategic Abu al-Duhur military airport, located in eastern Idlib.

Accelerating regime efforts to amass rising amounts of forces to completely take over Idlib only came to a pause last year with the Sept. 17 Sochi deal between Turkey and Russia.

Rising regime attacks triggered a wave of migration towards Turkish borders.

Thanks to Turkey's efforts, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed on Sochi deal on Sept. 18, 2018, but the regime and its supporters continued attacks.

More than 1,800 civilians have been killed since the deal and since January 2019, the number of Syrians displaced from Idlib and Aleppo has mounted to nearly 1.77 million.

Humanitarian crisis in Syria has deepened as the camps in Idlib are overcrowded due to the lack of area as well as infrastructure to set up tents.

Airstrikes turn to land assaults

Ignoring the Sochi deal, regime forces have accelerated their attacks since February 2019.

The regime has taken over large districts such as Kafr Nabudah, Khan Shaykhun, Maarat Al-Numan, Saraqib as well as south and southeast of Idlib, rural areas of northern and eastern Hama, many rural areas in southern and western Aleppo.

So, the regime seized around half of Idlib de-escalation zone.

Observation posts of Turkish army under siege

While Turkey has made an effort to find solution to humanitarian crisis and prevent new wave of migration both through borders and to Europe, the Syrian regime forces have increased its attacks on Turkish Army's observation posts.

Due to the attacks within the de-escalation zone, five observation posts of the Turkish army remain under siege.

Seven soldiers on Feb. 3, and five soldiers on Feb. 10 were martyred in the regime's shelling attacks.

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

Since then, however, more than 1,800 civilians there have been killed in attacks by regime and Russian forces as the cease-fire continues to be violated.

Turkey announced on Jan. 10 that a new cease-fire in Idlib would start just after midnight on Jan. 12, but the regime and Iran-backed terrorist groups continued their attacks.

More than 1.7 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks over the past year.

Turkey remains the country with the most refugees in the world, hosting more than 3.7 million migrants since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

* Writing by Burak Bir from Ankara.

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