SYRIA: Russian and Turkish forces conduct another joint patrol. Turkey establishes new military post west of Idlib

Gozarto, Idlib – As part of the ceasefire agreement between Russia and Turkey signed on 5 March, Russian and Turkish forces began to conduct another joint patrol from Derbasiya to the Amuda countryside, while Turkish forces established a new military post in the town of al-Kefir, west of Idlib.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights sources, the patrol consisted of 4 Turkish and 6 Russian vehicles who set off from the Sherik border crossing, roamed the villages located on the road between al-Hassaka and Derbasiya, and then to villages in Amuda countryside before returning to Sherik. The patrol coincided with low-altitude flights of Russian helicopters in the area. It is noteworthy, that it is the second time a joint Russian-Turkish patrol arrived in Amuda. The first time they toured the villages there.

On Thursday west of Idlib, Turkish forces set up a military post in al-Kefir in the town of Jisr al-Shughour after the bombing of al-Kefir Bridge on Wednesday by unidentified gunmen who intended to blew up al-Kefir Bridge with booby-traps. The al-Kefir Bridge is on the Latakia – Aleppo road, west of Jisr al-Shughour. This brings the number of Turkish military posts in the Idlib de-escalation zone to 52. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the perpetrators are likely to be jihadist groups opposed to the recent Russian-Turkish agreement, as well as popular rejection of them. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham is one of the Islamist jihadist groups fiercely opposing the ceasefire agreement between Turkey and Russia.

Russian officials have stated several times that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham organized the recent protests obstructing the joint Turkish-Russian patrols on the strategic M4 highway. Columnist for Al-Monitor Semih Yildiz said in an 24 March article that many analysts belief the highly fragile ceasefire will collapse due to attacks by Tahrir Hayat al-Sham and retaliation from Russia-backed Syrian regime forces. Ankara in the meantime continues to send heavy equipment and reinforcements to Idlib which suggests that a resumption of military activity is one of the scenarios Ankara sees possible of happening.