SYRIA: Mutual Russian–Turkish bombing in countryside of Idlib and Latakia; Russia denies sending mercenaries to Libya

IDLIB and LATAKIA, Syria — Amidst military build-ups and escalating tensions on both sides of the line of contact in Idlib, Syria, Turkish drones attacked positions of the Russian-backed Fifth Corps. No information was immediately available losses resulting from the attacks.

Local sources reported that the Turkish drones targeted Fifth Corps positions in the village of Al-Talhiya in the eastern countryside of Idlib.

The source indicated that the Turkish attack took place after Russian airstrikes on the headquarters of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) militants in the Latakia countryside.

It was not immediately clear following the bombing of the HTS headquarters who was responsible.

Idlib has been witnessing mutual bombing and violent confrontations between the Syrian regime forces and Turkish-backed factions.

The Fifth Corps was formed in late 2016 by Russia to bolster the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Fifth Corps salaries come directly from Moscow.

Following an agreement between the regime and opposition forces in Daraa, in southern Syria, signed in 2018, Russia gave former members of opposition factions an ultimatum: join Fifth Corps or be arrested on charges of terrorism.

Recently, Russia has been accused of organizing mercenary forces to fight in Libya as a means to counter Turkish-backed mercenaries already in the country.

Local sources have reported that new recruits and serving members of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) have been taken from their places of service by special agents and organized into mercenary units sent to fight in Libya.

The source, quoting testimonies of recruits who have travelled to or are registered to travel to Libya, indicated that, “The most important thing that drives recruits and others to volunteer for the fight in Libya is the tempting financial offers of the Russian forces and the harsh living conditions that Syrians are suffering from.”

The source mentioned that the Russians offer monthly salaries ranging between $ 500 and $ 1,000.

“Hundreds of Syrians in Hmeimim Air Base are preparing to travel to Libya. They are from different Syrian provinces,” the source added, pointing out that no one knows when they will be sent to Libya.

“They just leave in batches, even without any training,” the sources concluded.

Russia has repeatedly denied sending Syrian mercenary forces to fight in Libya.