Damage inside a Turkish observation post hit by Assad regime mortar fire in northwest Syria, June 13, 2019
Defying Turkey, Assad regime forces have attacked another Turkish observation post in northwest Syria.
Three days after a mortar assault on another post — and two days after warnings by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu about any renewed attack — the regime’s military fired artillery from Idlib Province’s Tall Bazan area towards the post in Murak.
The Ministry said the attack, like Thursday’s, was “deliberate” and Turkish forces retaliated with heavy weapons. There was material damage but no casualties.
Çavuşoğlu declared yesterday, “It is impossible for us to tolerate the regime’s harassment targeting our soldiers. We will put them in their place.”
But it was unclear what steps the Erdoğan Government will take. Sunday’s statement said “necessary initiatives” were being pursued with Russia, the essential ally of the regime and a guarantor alongside Turkey of the now-shattered demilitarized zone in Idlib and northern Hama Provinces.
The Kremlin made no response to Sunday’s attack.
After Thursday’s mortar fire, Moscow covered for the Assad regime, maintaining that it was rebels rather than regime forces who fired on one of 12 observation posts around Idlib and northern Hama. The Russians said that, acting on a Turkish request, it carried out four airstrikes on “terrorist” positions.
Turkey firmly rejected the Russian claims.
The Russians declared a ceasefire to take effect last Thursday, but the Assad regime never halted its bombing and shelling, including of civilian areas.
A Russian-regime offensive began May 6, shattering the demilitarized zone declared by Russia and Turkey in September. It quickly took several towns and villages in northwest Hama Province, but was then checked by the rebels and the Islamist bloc Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham.
A rebel counter-offensive 10 days ago regained some of the lost territory, exposing the limits of Russian airstrikes in backing the regime forces.
Meanwhile, Russian and regime bombardment has killed about 325 civilians, injured hundreds, and added to the displacement of more than 300,000 people since September. Almost 30 medical centers have been damaged or destroyed.
An estimated 3 million people — about 20% of Syria’s remaining population — live in Idlib and northern Hama.