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The New Arab

Turkey opens new military base to boost major Idlib reinforcement

Tensions between Syria and Turkey have increased in Idlib this week [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 February, 2020

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Turkey opened a military base overlooking a village captured by the Syrian army, according to The New Arab, while the regime continued to make gains in the final rebel bastion.
The Turkish military set up a new military base in an Idlib village on Sunday, as pro-government forces battling opposition groups made further inroads into Syria's northwest, the country's final rebel stronghold.

Ankara opened its point on a strategic hill near the village of Qminas, overlooking a nearby village controlled by government forces, according to The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site. 

Activists see the troop presence at the location as stemming a possible regime advance into Idlib from the southwest.

The move comes as part of major reinforcements sent to Turkey's 12 observation posts in the region, part of a 2018 deal secured with key Syrian ally Russia, many of which are now surrounded by forces loyal to the regime.

Ankara sent three hundred vehicles into Idlib on Saturday, raising the total to 1000 this month, according to a senior Turkish government official, who declined to state the number of Turkish troops accompanying the convoy, according to Reuters.

On Monday, eight Turkish military personnel were killed in shelling by Syrian government forces..

The attack prompted Turkey to tell Russia to "stand aside" when it bombed dozens of Syrian army targets in retaliation.

Decisive gains for the regime

On Sunday, the Syrian Army announced the capture of several key towns and villages saddling the strategic M5 highway, which link's the Syrian capital with Aleppo.

The highway, which continues south from Damascus into the Jordanian border, has been a long-coveted target for the regime, for the promise it offers in reviving the country's war-ravaged economy.

The gains follow the government seizure of the crossroads town of Saraqeb on Saturday, the second key highway town to be recaptured by its forces in the past two weeks, after rebels were pushed out of Maaret al Numan last month.

Sunday's advance meant that the Syrian army only has a 2 kilometre stretch remaining to seize in Aleppo province, in order to exert full control over the highway, according to The New Arab.

"Our brave army will continue to carry out its sacred duties to clear the entire geographic territory of Syria from terrorism and its supporters," the armed forces said in a statement.

The violence in Idlib has killed more than 300 civilians and has displaced approximately 600,000 people since, according to the United Nations.

Witnesses at the northern Turkish-Syrian border said on Saturday that convoys of Turkish military vehicles carrying essential supplies had crossed into Idlib, turning back to return for more.

Turkey, which is already host to 3.6 million Syrian refugees, says the advances by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies threaten a fresh humanitarian disaster, driving another wave of potential refugees to its southern border.

Pope Francis called on Sunday for respect of humanitarian law, saying reports from the region were “painful ... particularly regarding the conditions of women and children, of people forced to flee from a military escalation”.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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