Recordings reveal Syrian forces deliberately attacking Turkish posts in Idlib - Daily Telegraph

Syrian government forces on Feb. 12 deliberately sought to attack Turkish military posts in Idlib, the Daily Telegraph reported on Friday citing intercepted radio communications shared with the newspaper. 

The communications, which were intercepted after the Syrian army's radio frequency was discovered by spotters at a nearby observatory, were then passed to the Telegraph by independent activist group Macro Media Centre (MMC), the newspaper said. 

Turkey has 12 observation posts in Idlib, built according to a 2018 agreement made with Russia to establish a demilitarised zone in the province. Ankara has been sending additional equipment and personnel to Syria’s last major rebel-held enclave, where 15 Turkish soldiers have been killed since the beginning of February. 

"Send me the coordinates of the Turkish post, Somar," an artillery officer asks his comrade, addressing him by name in the intercepted communications, the Daily Telegraph said. A signals officer replies: "It’s in front of you to the left, Sobhi. 07215313." 

The coordinates relay a post manned by the Turkish military just a few miles from where a group of elderly women were shot in Mizanaz by Syrian forces, the newspaper said. 

There was an attempted artillery attack by Syrian forces on the position not long after the radio communications were made on Feb. 12 and the Turks were forced to abandon it, it said. No one was injured during the attack according to the Daily Telegraph. 

"Syrian regime forces hit Turkish observation posts on multiple occasions, so the likelihood of these strikes being accidental diminished by the day, but it's still jarring to hear it stated so clearly,” Elizabeth Tsurkov, a fellow at Foreign Policy Research Institute and leading Syria expert, told the Daily Telegraph.

Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, said the attacks were a "wake-up call" to anyone in doubt about which side in Syria was behind the collapse of a ceasefire agreement for the northwest.

“Turkey will undoubtedly have been aware that the Syrian military was purposely targeting its posts, but for skeptics in the general public, this should be a wake up call about which actors are pushing escalation,” he said.

“It’s also a humiliation for Russia, who Ankara still views as a potentially trustworthy party to the (2018) Sochi agreement, which specifically mandated the establishment of Turkish military posts inside Idlib,” Lister said.
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