Syrian regime forces have surrounded a Turkish military observation post in the embattled north-western province of Idlib today, after they overran a number of neighbouring towns.
In a viral video recorded by the Turkish soldiers and posted on Twitter today, Syrian troops and military vehicles including tanks can be seen approaching the area near the town of Morek, where one of the 12 observation posts manned by the Turkish military is stationed.
Besieged Turkish soldiers are observing Assad forces near Morek. pic.twitter.com/E2N38mx61y
— Ali Özkök (@Ozkok_A) August 23, 2019
The Syrian army’s march toward the Turkish observation post has taken place after its forces, along with Russian and Iranian troops, captured Morek and its surrounding towns, pushing further into the province of Idlib in its campaign to retake the last major stronghold of the Syrian opposition.
The UK-based organisation Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has stated that “Regime forces have surrounded the Turkish observation post in Morek after capturing other towns and villages in this pocket.” On their arrival at the areas, the army found them to be “deserted” following the withdrawal of opposition forces prior to its entry.
READ: What’s next for Syria?
Ankara promised on Wednesday that it would not abandon any of its observation posts which were established in the north and north-west of the country under deal struck with Russia, the Syrian regime’s ally and supporter in the region, and has warned the regime “not to play with fire”. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters that “We will do whatever is necessary to ensure the security of our soldiers and observation posts.”
The primary purpose of the observation post was to oversee the creation of a buffer or de-escalation zone in Idlib, which was agreed upon between Turkey and Russia in September 2018. Since then, however, that plan has been largely foiled by the regime’s all-out land and air assault on the province since April. Over the past week in particular, the regime and its allies have been making rapid advances in the campaign to retake Idlib, with one of the most recent devastating losses for the Syrian opposition occurring earlier in the week when the city of Khan Sheikhoun and its surrounding hills and checkpoints fell into the regime’s hands.
The army’s surrounding of the Turkish observation post has raised concerns, however, that it could take direct military action against the post and the Turkish soldiers besieged in it. It would not be the first time that regime forces have attacked the posts and their soldiers; they have previously shelled military bases. On Monday, the regime also conducted an air strike on a Turkish military convoy passing through Idlib, causing many to anticipate a looming direct military confrontation.