Amid escalation in Idlib, residents fear renewed Russian-backed offensive

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The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Sept. 7 that “a woman succumbed to her wounds sustained in artillery shelling carried out by the Syrian regime forces on al-Dabbit neighborhood in Idlib city. One of the fired shells also targeted a swimming pool and park located on the outskirts of the eastern city of Idlib, killing two and wounding five others.”

In one other report, the struggle monitor indicated that between Sept. 1 and Sept. 6, Russian warplanes launched 46 airstrikes within the areas the place the cease-fire reached between Russia and Turkey in March 2020 is in place, concentrating on the countryside of Latakia, Hama and Idlib.

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On Sept. 1, eight raids focused a Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) camp within the forest of al-Hamamah village within the western countryside of Idlib, whereas 4 raids hit two frontlines in Kabana within the countryside of Latakia and Duwayr al-Akrad village within the northwestern countryside of Hama.

The following day, six Russian raids focused the hills of Kabana and Tallat al-Khoudur within the countryside of Latakia, in addition to Sarmaniya within the countryside of Hama. And from Sept. three by Sept. 6, day by day raids by Russian plane focused places within the Idlib countryside, with raids intensifying on Sept. eight and displaying no indicators of slowing down.

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The ongoing Russian airstrikes raised the considerations of residents over the potential for the Syrian authorities finishing up army motion in these areas. As a consequence, some households determined to flee; others most well-liked to eliminate their furnishings to make it simpler for them to go away within the occasion of battles.

Hardly a day goes by with out Russian planes finishing up a variety of raids, particularly in western Idlib and the Jabal al-Zawiya space.

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Omar Jumaa from the city of al-Bara in Jabal al-Zawiya informed Al-Monitor, “I fled to the northern camps near the Turkish border as the regime bombarded on a daily basis my town and the villages in Jabal al-Zawiya. Add to this the daily Russian airstrikes. Most of the residents of those villages fled to safer areas. Despite the so-called cease-fire reported in the media, it looks like there is war on the ground.”

For his half, Sameh Nabil, a Free Syrian Army chief residing in Idlib, informed Al-Monitor, “As factions, we expect the regime to launch military action in Jabal al-Zawiya. After settling the Daraa issue, regime forces may head toward Jabal al-Zawiya. We have braced ourselves for such a possibility and developed appropriate military plans.”

He added, “Unfortunately, Turkey is sitting idly by even though it is a party to the cease-fire that was agreed to on March 5, 2020, in Moscow. However, the Turkish side in Jabal al-Zawiya is merely watching as Russian planes bombard the towns of Jabal al-Zawiya near the positions of the Turkish army.”

Naji Abu Hudhaifa, an Idlib-based spokesperson for the National Liberation Front, which incorporates a number of armed opposition factions in northern Idlib, informed Al-Monitor, “The escalation carried out by the Russian planes and the regime’s artillery has been ongoing. We responded by bombing several regime positions in Saraqib from where regime forces launch their attacks against civilians in Idlib.”

He added, “We have declared full readiness to confront any military operation on the part of the regime, and we are monitoring the movements of the regime forces at the lines of contact.”

Abu Muslim al-Shami, an Idlib-based army commander in HTS, informed Al-Monitor the “factions of Al-Fatah al-Mubin (Great Conquest) operations room, which is led by HTS, directly deal with the sources of aggression. After the bombing of Idlib city, we targeted locations deep within the regime [areas] inside the city of Saraqib, which resulted in several explosions inside the city. We also targeted several other areas. We, the military factions, are bracing ourselves for all kinds of possibilities. We are aware that our enemy is [murderous].”

Majd Kilani, an Idlib-based researcher at the Jusoor Center for Studies, told Al-Monitor, “Turkey supports the factions to confront any infiltration in the wake of the recent Astana meeting, where it was agreed to support the factions’ bombing of regime sites in response to the escalation. However, field and political indicators do not point to a Russian or regime plan to start battles neither in Idlib nor elsewhere. Russia presents itself as a guarantor of the political track. On the ground, there are no indications of the regime’s intention to open battles, at least in the near future.”

Kilani further warned, “The humanitarian situation is catastrophic in Idlib as winter draws near amid another possible coronavirus wave and more possible rounds of bombing operations.”

Muhannad Darwish, a resident of Idlib, told Al-Monitor, “I think the regime has settled the Daraa issue and is close to settling the issue of Syria’s Badia, which has been combed in quest of Islamic State cells. I imagine the calm that beforehand existed [in Idlib] was as a result of regime’s plan to settle the problems of Daraa and the Badia desert. But since these points have been settled, escalation will return to Idlib.”

Darwish believes “Turkey is working hard to have the cease-fire hold in Idlib. Turkey has specific interests and is the weakest link in Syria, so it believes an escalation would not be in its interest. However, I believe if the cease-fire collapses and the battles resume, the Turks will not stand idly by. The quality of their military deployment is different today.”

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