Assad forces hit wall around Idlib as Turkey backs rebel forces

Rebel counterattacks in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province are proving a challenge for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while underlining Turkish resolve to keep the area free from the hands of Damascus, Reuters reported.

Little has come from more than two months of Russian-backed operations in and around Idlib province, the last stronghold of the Syrian opposition, the agency said, marking a rare case of a military campaign that has not gone Assad’s way since Russia’s 2015 intervention.

In May, after rebel groups considered extremists by Moscow rose to dominance in Idlib and captured neighbouring villages, the Russia-backed Assad’s regime launched an intense bombing campaign on the province, targeting civilian residences and infrastructure as well as rebel outposts and killing hundreds. 

Since the regime launched its offensive into Idlib, Turkey has supplied its rebel proxies, the National Liberation Force (NLF), with more arms to fight the offensive.

Insurgents have resisted government attacks and carved out small advances of their own, using ample stocks of guided anti-tank missiles, which according to opposition and diplomatic sources have been supplied by Turkey.

Turkey has 12 observation points around the province and the Turkish military has transferred arms and munitions to militants in Hama, another area bombarded by Syrian regime forces, helping them take back a strategic town from the Syrian army.

Turkey’s commitment to the rebels in the northwest, Reuters said, has presented a stark contrast to last year’s campaign, ‘’when Western and Arab states stood by as Assad and his Russian- and Iranian-backed allies took the area.’’

Despite strong support from Russian air forces, the Syria regime has remained on the periphery of Idlib and unable to advance, columnist İşxan Miroyev wrote in Turkish left-wing news site Artı Gerçek.

It is Turkey’s support for jihadist groups that has presented the greatest challenge to the Assad regime around Idlib, according to Miroyev.

“Ankara does not wish to give Syria’s northern regions to its NATO ally the United States, or any other power,’’ the columnist said.