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Russian Air Force Relentless in First Day of Major Airstrikes Over Idlib, Turkey’s ‘Double-Dealing’ Continues

The Russian Air Force has been relentlessly bombarding ‘rebel’ terrorist positions over the Idlib Governorate today, with powerful airstrikes on several jihadist controlled territories including those infested by Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS).

Below is a battle map, illustrating the current territorial controls and forces on the ground in and around the Idlib Province in Syria, courtesy of Middle East Eye.

Complicating the start of this Syrian and Russian offensive is Turkey, whose army operates several observation posts along the border between Idlib and Syrian government-held territory. Further complicating matters, Turkey also sponsors a ‘rebel’ coalition faction called the “National Liberation Front” (NLF) – a collection of unsavory characters and the main rival of HTS in Idlib, according to IRIN:

Turkey’s favourite is the NLF, which is led by Fadlallah al-Hajji, a Muslim Brotherhood ally. The NLF includes Turkey-friendly Islamists like Ahrar al-Sham, the Noureddine al-Zengi Brigades, Failaq al-Sham, Jaish al-Ahrar, and groups that fought under the Free Syrian Army banner, like the Victory Army and the 2nd Coastal Division.

Big but brittle, the NLF is held together by Turkish sponsorship and shared enemies: al-Assad’s government, Syrian Kurdish groups, and hardline jihadists.

The NLF’s main rival in Idlib is Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist group that controls the provincial capital, the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey, and other key areas in Idlib.

Turkish forces will either need to leave, drawdown, or help clean out the remaining terrorist strongholds in Idlib for the offensive to gain traction on the ground. Based on their latest moves in the region, it appears they are prepared to do none of these. This presents the potential risk for a military showdown in the future between Turkish and Syrian/Russian forces.

Turkey’s role in Syria goes well beyond its military presence, explains 21WIRE’s Vanessa Beeley in her recent tweet:

Here’s the latest on today’s Russian airstrikes over Idlib from Al Masdar News, with the Syrian Arab Air Force soon to follow:

BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:00 P.M.) – The Russian Air Force has stepped up their aerial assault in the Idlib Governorate this afternoon, following a series of powerful airstrikes earlier today.

Using their Sukhoi jets, the Russian Air Force has launched another another two dozen airstrikes over the southwestern countryside of the Idlib Governorate, a military source told Al-Masdar News.

The Russian jets primarily concentrated these strikes on the Jisr Al-Shughour District, which is controlled by the jihadist rebels of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham and the Turkestan Islamic Party.

With these latest airstrikes, the Russian Air Force has now launched over 70 airstrikes above the Idlib Governorate today.

This latest campaign by the Syrian and Russian air forces is the largest aerial bombardment of any part of Syria this year.

While the Russian Air Force continues to bombardment the jihadist rebels, the Turkish military has responded by increasing the size of their forces around the Idlib and Hama governorates.

It appears that a major showdown might take place between the Syrian Arab Army and Turkish military, if the latter does not withdraw from certain observation posts near the jihadist rebels.

READ MORE IDLIB NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Idlib Files

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