Displaced women sit in a field near a camp in northwest Idlib Province, May 8, 2019
Amid a Russian-regime offensive and attacks on civilians across northwest Syria, a Turkish official warns that the country can take no more refugees.
Abdullah Ayaz of the Interior Ministry said of the assault in Idlib and northern Hama Provinces, shattering a demilitarized zone declared by Russia and Turkey last September:
As Turkey, I would like to state that we do not have any more space left for a new migration wave. It is important that a political solution is found for conflicts in Idlib and a political transition is ensured there.
If the long-term solutions about migration are not put on the table; if enough effort is not put for these [solutions] to be realized; all parties, countries, and the international community will have to handle this issue with the approach that it is outside their borders.
Turkey hosts more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees, but blocked entries from 2016.
Last week Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued his harshest condemnation of Russia-regime attacks on civilians and the May 6 offensive, including Assad regime attacks on Turkish observation posts: “We want deaths to stop in Syria, the bombing of Idlib with barrel and phosphorus bombs is inexcusable.”
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu called out to Moscow, “Russia needs to fulfill its responsibility here.”
But the Assad regime has persisted with its bombing and shelling, killing at least 21 civilians on Thursday, and Russia has remained silent about the attacks.
Meanwhile, the regime has launched a new wave in the offensive, which has stalled since gains in its first week, but has suffered heavy casualties in northwest Hama.
Rebel sources claimed more than 100 regime troops were killed as they tried again to take the key hilltop town of Tal Maleh, which overlooks a road linking regime positions.
Since late April, about 375 civilians have been killed by Russian and regime bombardment. An estimated 330,000 have fled their homes, with almost 30 medical centers damaged or destroyed
An estimated 3 million people — about 20% of Syria’s remaining population — live in northern Hama and Idlib Provinces.
Regime Calls Off Attempt to Take Key Town
The regime has acknowledged failure to take the key hilltop town of Kabani, in northeast Latakia Province, after 45 days of attacks.
The Al Masdar blog, a channel for regime military sources, said the 4th Armored Division has left Kabani for northwestern Hama.
The Syrian Army and National Defense Forces militias suffered heavy losses in the assault.
The capture of Kabani would have opened up Idlib and northwest Hama Provinces to regime advances. Instead, the 4th Armored — including most of its elite 42nd Brigade — is being redeployed to the Kafr Naboudeh front to hold back a rebel counter-offensive.
Supported by Russian airstrikes and ground advisors, the regime took Kafr Naboudeh in the first days of the May 6 offensive but has been under pressure since rebels counter-attacked three weeks ago.