The Syrian army has accelerated its offensive from both the south and east of the northwestern Idlib governorate toward the capital, Idlib City. There has been little to no resistance to the advance by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Iranian-proxies and Russian air support.
Tahrir al-Sham is the most powerful Jihadist organization in Idlib, under the command of senior al-Qaeda figure, Abu Mohammed al-Julani. The faction has reportedly regrouped and now waging a counter-offensive on several fronts, alongside militias and artillery support from Turkish.
Two Turkish soldiers were killed in an air strike early this morning, bringing the number of fatalities among security personnel in Idlib to nineteen. While the Turkish Defense Ministry did not elaborate on whether the deadly bombardment was conducted by the Syrians or Russians, it underscored that a retaliatory attack targeted regime forces.
As diplomatic teams from Ankara and Moscow held their latest round of talks in search of common ground today, Russian President Vladimir Putin turned down a proposed 5 March summit with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had stated such talks were impending. The Kremlin’s official rejection prompted Erdogan to announce the imminence of a Turkish counter-offensive. “Unfortunately, Russia does not want to accept this humanitarian sensitivity,” claimed the Turkish leader, adding, “However, the time that we gave to those who besieged our observation point is ending.” He then reiterated that plans are being prepared “to liberate our observation posts from the surrounding forces by the end of this month, one way or another,” and that Ankara will not abandon its pledge to defeat the Syrian army and its allies. “We are not going to take even a little step back in Idlib and push the regime forces out of the area that we designated and let the people return back to their houses,” he said.
Following Russian threats, Erdogan conceded that “Our biggest problem now is that we cannot use the airspace,” but vowed “With the help of God, we will find a solution to this very soon.”