UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (VOP TODAY NEWS) — The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that the regular forces managed to take control of the last town in the northern countryside of Hama (south of Idlib governorate), Mork town, thus bringing the entire northern countryside of Hama under the control of the regime forces for the first time since 2012, while Ankara confirmed that it will not leave the Turkish observation post.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in Beirut on Friday that his soldiers would not leave the encircled observation post south of Idlib , shortly after Syrian regime forces took control of the area.
“We are not there because we cannot leave, but because we do not want to leave,” he said, denying that Turkish troops in Mork were “isolated”.
On Friday, Syrian regime forces managed to besiege the Turkish observation post in the town of Mork, south of Idlib province, the last town in the northern countryside of Hama, after making more field progress in the region at the expense of jihadi and opposition factions.
These developments are taking place weeks before an upcoming summit in Ankara to discuss Syria, especially the situation in Idlib, and gathered the presidents of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russia, Vladimir Putin and Iran Hassan Rouhani.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, told AFP that “the regime forces are currently besieging the Turkish observation post in Mork, after taking control of the town and all the villages and towns near it in the besieged enclave in the northern countryside of Hama” adjacent to Idlib.
This observation point is the largest, according to the observatory, in Idlib and its environs, where Turkish troops are present in 12 locations under an agreement with Russia, an ally of Damascus, to reduce the escalation in Idlib.
The entire northern Hamwi countryside is under the control of regime forces for the first time since 2012
The official Syrian News Agency (SANA) reported in an urgent news that “Syrian army units have taken control” of six towns in the northern countryside of Hama, most notably Kafrzita, Latamneh and Murk. These towns have been under faction control since 2012.
After more than three months of intense Syrian and Russian bombardment of areas in and around Idlib, regime forces began to advance on the 8th of this month in the southern countryside of Idlib. On Wednesday, it was able to take control of the strategic city of Khan Sheikhoun after the withdrawal of fighters of HTS (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) and opposition factions from the region.
A Turkish convoy en route to Mork on Monday came under Syrian bombardment targeting a car escorting a pro-Turkish Syrian opposition faction. The convoy was unable to complete its path after regime forces cut the Damascus-Aleppo International Highway as it advanced in and around Khan Sheikhoun.
Damascus has repeatedly reiterated its intention to control all areas beyond its control, including Idlib. President Bashar al-Assad said Tuesday that “the victories demonstrated the determination of the people and the army to continue to strike terrorists until the liberation of the last inch of Syrian territory, despite the continued support received by terrorist organizations from many Western and regional parties.”
“There is no question of closing or relocating” the observation center in Mork according to Ankara
Ankara strongly condemned the targeting of its convoy. Turkish Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said late Wednesday that “it is not possible to close or relocate” the observation center in Mork. “.
Following the escalation since the end of April, several areas in northern Hama and in southern Idlib have been virtually empty, following massive displacement towards the Turkish border north. The United Nations counted the flight of more than 400 thousand people, while 900 civilians were killed in the bombing, according to the observatory.
Russian and Syrian warplanes continue to bomb several areas in the southern countryside of Idlib outside the besieged area, most notably the town of Maarat al-Numan north of Khan Sheikhoun. Syrian air strikes on Friday on Maarat al-Numan killed three civilians, including a child, and wounded six others, according to the observatory.
“Modified Map” of Operations in Northern Hama Countryside and Southern Idlib Countryside
The escalation came despite the fact that Idlib and surrounding areas were covered by an agreement reached by Russia and Turkey in Sochi in September that provided for a ceasefire and a demilitarized zone from which jihadists would withdraw. This agreement prevented the regime from launching an attack on Idlib. A truce was recorded for some time, but shelling and fighting resumed. ).
The agreement on the ground has not been applied in practice.
The Syrian daily Al-Watan reported on its website on Friday that “the latest developments in the Syrian Arab Army have imposed a new map in the northern countryside of Hama and the southern countryside of Idlib.
The Turkish president will host his Russian and Iranian counterparts in Ankara on September 16 to discuss the situation in Syria, the presidential spokesman said, at the fifth summit of its kind among the three presidents.
Analysts expect regime forces to continue their offensive in Idlib in the coming period, after Russia has “re-established its authority and superiority in any debate on Idlib.”
“I see Assad continuing his offensive, taking advantage of the current momentum, and controlling more (in areas) in Idlib,” Samuel Ramani, a Russian researcher, told AFP.
Syria has been plagued by a bloody conflict since its outbreak in 2011 that has killed more than 370,000 people, caused massive infrastructure damage and displaced more than half of the population inside and outside the country.
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