further updates on syria, saturday afternoon

Tensions between Ankara & Damascus boil over
RT.com, Feb 22 2020

A Turkish military convoy crosses into Idlib, Feb 22 2020.
Photo: Aaref Watad/AP

A Turkish soldier has been killed in the Syrian northwestern Idlib province in an airstrike by the Syrian Army, Turkish local authorities have said amid the ongoing crisis between Ankara and Damascus in the region. A soldier identified as Mecit Demir has been killed in a bombing in Idlib, the governor’s office of the southern Turkish Gaziantep province said in a Twitter post. On Saturday, SANA reported, citing military sources, that Damascus would take a tougher approach toward defending its airspace. Any foreign military warplane violating the Syrian airspace would be “confronted” by the Syrian Air Force and targeted by the air defense units, the report said.

SAA Kills Another Turkish Soldier In Greater Idlib
South Front, Feb 22 2020

The Turkish Ministry of National Defense announced on Feb 22 that another service member was killed in Idlib. The ministry said the service member, Mecit Demir, was killed in a strike carried out by the SAA. The ministry claimed that its forces responded by shelling 21 Syrian military positions. However, field sources didn’t report any significant strikes by Turkish forces. Demir, a tank crewman, may have been killed in a series of Syrian and Russian airstrikes, which targeted southern Idlib late on Feb 21. The airstrikes reportedly destroyed nine vehicles, including battle tanks, of Turkish forces and their local proxies. Two days ago, two Turkish service members were killed and five others were injured in a failed attack by Turkish forces and their proxies on SAA positions in southern Idlib. The SAA, supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces, repelled the attack within a few hours. Four battle tanks of the Turkish Armed Forces were destroyed. The Turkish military lost 17 service members in Greater Idlib in the last few weeks. Despite this, Ankara appears to be still determined to support its proxies there.

SAA Warns Against Any Violation Of Country’s Airspace
South Front, Feb 22 2020

The SAA warned on Feb 22 that any violation of the country’s airspace will be dealt with as a “foreign military aggression.” In an official statement, the army’s command said that orders have been given to the Syrian Air Force and the Syrian Air Defense Forces to repel any such aggression. The statement reads:

Any aircraft that violates the Syrian airspace will be treated as a hostile military target that will not be allowed to fly over our airspace, it will be tracked at the moment of its discovery and we will work to destroy it once it penetrates our airspace.

The SAA’s warning appears to be directed against Turkey, whose forces are amassing in the northwestern Syrian region of Greater Idlib. Two days ago, Turkey and its proxies, including AQ-affiliated HTS/Nusra, launched a joint attack on SAA positions in southern Idlib. The army, supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces, repelled the attack within a few hours. Despite sustaining catastrophic losses in their attack, Turkey and its proxies are now apparently preparing to launch an even larger attack. This time, however, Ankara may attempt to use its air force. The TAF operates dozens of advanced F-16 fighter jets. However, the SAF maintains a tight grip over northwest Syria thanks to a network of air-defense systems around the region, including at least one S-300PMU2 battery deployed in Hama. The SAF could also provide support with its upgraded MiG-29SM warplanes. A TAF attack on SAA positions in northwest Syria could provide Ankara’s proxies with the support they need to advance again. However, such a move will for sure come with a very high risk. A battle in the sky could ignite a full-scale war between Turkey and Syria.

Turkey Deploys Air-Defense System Along Border With Idlib
South Front, Feb 22 2020

On Feb 22, the Turkish military deployed at least one Atilgan pedestal-mounted air defence missile system (PMADS) along the border with Syria’s Greater Idlib. Several sources shared photos showing a truck carrying the system in a border region, likely the southern province of Hatay. Turkish activists claimed that the system will be later redeployed to Greater Idlib. These claims have not been verified yet.

The Atilgan PMADS, that was developed by Turkey’s defense company ASELSAN, is based on a M113 armored vehicle. The system can be armed with eight FIM-92 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, made in Turkey by ROKETSAN. The missile’s range, that’s limited to 4.8 km, makes the Atilgan a short-range system. The system is equipped with an advanced electro-optical\infrared sensors which can detect and track aerial objects, even those flying on low levels. Earlier this week, Stinger missiles were fired at a Russian Su-24 warplane from a Turkish post in southern Idlib. The warplanes able to dodge at least two such missiles. Turkey had also deployed heavy, long-range rocket launchers along Syria’s border. The Turkish military buildup in the border region indicates that Ankara is planning to escalate further in northwest Syria, where its forces are supporting radical militants.

Assad Forces Give Turkish Army Whipping In Eastern Idlib
South Front, Feb 22 2020

On Feb 20, the second largest army in NATO and its proxy forces once again failed to capture the village of Nayrab, eastern Idlib, from the SAA. The Turkish attack involved 2 dozen pieces of military equipment, including battle tanks and artillery, over 200 Turkish soldiers and approximately 300 members of HTS/Nusra and other Turkish-backed groups. The Turkish attack started at approximately 13:00 local time under jeers of mainstream media regarding the nearing collapse of the Syrian defense and the Assad government under powerful strikes of the Turkish Army. By 14:00 local time, some Turkish supporters in twitter already conquered Aleppo city and were preparing to advance on Damascus. However, by 17:00 it appeared that the attack died out, despite the massive rocket and artillery strikes and the participation of Turkish troops who united their efforts against the Syrians with AQ. Turkish-led forces, supposedly Turkish troops, even launched a MANPAD at a Russian Su-24 warplane that came to provide a close air support to Syrian troops. After this, the Turkish Defense Ministry reported that 2 Turkish soldiers were killed and 5 others were injured in an airstrike. In keeping with the best traditions, the Turkish Defense Ministry claimed in a victorious statement that 50 ‘Assad troops’ were killed, 2 Syrian battle tanks, 2 armoured vehicles, 2 armed pickups and a howitzer were destroyed. However, all what the Turkish side was able to demonstrate to confirm these claims were a few HTS/Nusra selfies from the vicinity of Nayrab. Turkish state media immediately declared that Turkish forces did not want to capture the village and just sent a message to the oppressive Assad regime. After this, the mighty Turkish Army requested Patriots systems from Pindostan in order to deter the Assad aggression in Idlib. There are two explanations: Ankara apparently missed news that Patriots deployed at in Saudi Arabia had repeatedly failed to protect its military infrastructure from missile and drone strikes by the Yemeni Houthis. The Erdogan government would like to see troops of Pindostan in Idlib alongside their Turkish and al-Qaeda counterparts. The Russian side officially confirmed that its warplanes supported the Syrian Army striking targets in Idlib. According to it, a battle tank, 6 armoured vehicles and 5 armed pickups were destroyed. Moscow says that Turkish artillery strikes injured 4 SAA soldiers. February is coming to its end and the Turkish ultimatum demanding the Syrians to withdraw from the liberated areas is expiring. The inability of Turkish forces to recapture even a single village from the Syrian Army already became a powerful blow to the public image of the Erdogan government. Therefore, it’s likely that the Turkish Army will continue their attacks in Idlib paying with own blood for neo-ottoman dreams of Erdogan and its inner circle.

Turkey says its soldier was killed in Idlib
RT.com, Feb 22 2020

A Turkish soldier has been killed in the Syrian north-western Idlib province in an airstrike by the SAA, Turkish local authorities have said amid the ongoing crisis between Ankara and Damascus in the region. A soldier identified as Mecit Demir has been killed in a bombing in Idlib, the governor’s office of the southern Turkish Gaziantep province said in a Twitter post. Turkey, which supports what it called “moderate” armed groups, has recently flooded the region with troops and equipment in response to an offensive of the Syrian Army. Damascus has dealt a series of defeats to the militants in its quest to liberate a strategic highway linking the national capital to one of Syria’s biggest cities, Aleppo. Most recently, Turkish artillery struck Syrian positions as militants launched a “major offensive” to retake lost ground. The barrage ceased, though, when Moscow contacted Ankara. The SAA supported by the RAF also managed to repel the attack. Moscow also stepped up its diplomatic efforts to ease tensions on the ground. Yet, despite the “intensified contacts” between Putin and EErdogan, the fight in Idlib has showed no signs of waning so far.

Turkey Prevented Four Russian Military Planes From Crossing To Syria
South Front, Feb 22 2020

Turkey closed its airspace in the face of Russian military planes following the recent tension in Syria’s Greater Idlib, Russia’s Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported on Feb 21. According to the newspaper, four planes, including a Tu-154 and two Su-24M, were banned from entering Turkey’s airspace. The four Russian planes were forced to travel through Iran, then Iraq. The unusual trip, which took place on February 20, was noticed by aviation observers.

In the first years of its operations in Syria, Russia used Iran and Iraq skies to ship equipment and send troops to the war-torn country. Later, Russian military planes began taking a shorter route through Turkey’s airspace. This was the result of the improvement in relations between Moscow and Ankara. The Turkish decision to close its airspace will not likely affect Russian operations in Syria. However, it may damage Russian-Turkish relations.

Syrian Air Defences Will Shoot Down Any Aircraft Violating Country’s Airspace – Army Command
Sputnik News, Feb 22 2020

The Turkish military and Turkish-backed militias and Syrian forces became engaged in a shooting war in Syria’s Idlib province following a Syrian artillery attack on a Turkish observation post last week. Damascus began an operation in the province in December amid repeated attacks on its forces by terrorist militants operating in the region. The SAA has warned that its air defences would shoot down any aircraft violating the country’s airspace. Syrian Armed Forces Command said in a press statement on Saturday:

Any aircraft which violate Syria’s airspace will be treated as enemy military targets. They will be tracked immediately after detection and destroyed immediately after violating our airspace.

According to the military, air defence troops have received orders to defend the country’s airspace “by all available means.” Also Saturday, an official from Turkey’s Gaziantep governorate reported that a Turkish contract soldier was killed in Idlib province following a Syrian Army attack on Turkish forces. the official said:

As a result of shelling by the Syrian regime in the Idlib area, contract serviceman Mecit Demir was killed.

Apparently the serviceman was a member of a tank crew, and succumbed to his injuries in hospital. Funeral services are expected to take place in Gaziantep on Sunday. Demir was the sixteenth Turkish soldier killed in fighting in Idlib this month. Abd’ul-Hamit Gul, Turkey’s minister of justice, posted a photo of the soldier, issuing his condolences to Demir’s family and friends.

Russian & Turkish Defence Ministers Discuss Syria Situation
Sputnik News, Feb 22 2020

Also on Saturday, Sergei Shoigu discussed the need to stabilize the situation in the Idlib DEZ with his Hulusi Akar. The ministry said:

During the phone conversation, they discussed the stabilization of the situation in the Idlib DEZ.

According to the MoD, the two sides exchanged opinions on the situation in Syria more broadly. No further information about the call was provided. On Thursday, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned that Turkey’s support for militants attacking SAA forces in Idlib was a violation of Russian-Turkish agreements on the need to separate the armed opposition from terrorists which threatened to “provoke a further escalation in the conflict” in the region. Earlier, the Russian Defence Ministry cast doubt on Ankara’s claims about the possibility of a humanitarian disaster if Turkey were to withdraw from Syrian territory, saying there was no evidence about the reports of “a million” refugees moving from Idlib toward the Syrian-Turkish border. In a telephone conversation with Erdogan on Wednesday, Putin expressed his serious concern about aggressive actions by extremist groups in Idlib against SAA troops, and called for “unconditional respect for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Syrian War Diary
South Front, Feb 22 2020

Dear friends, South Front is now offering a new video product: “Syrian War Diary“. Over the past several years, the Syrian conflict has passed through several turning points. Now the military and diplomatic situation is quite different to what we observed before the start of the Russian military operation in 2015. “Syrian War Diary” videos unite SouthFront’s War Reports produced during this period and provide a retrospective of these developments.

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