Syrian opposition forces recaptured the key town of Al-Nayrab in the country’s northwestern Idlib province yesterday, forcing the regime’s military to retreat and withdraw.
The town, which lays on a strategic location at the junction between the M4 and M5 highways, was formerly an opposition stronghold before being seized by the regime forces at the beginning of February.
The opposition groups were supported by Turkish artillery while its tanks advanced on positions held by regime troops throughout the days prior to the recapture.
The spokesman for the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) Yusef Hamoud told the UK-based news agency Reuters: “With the help of our Turkish friends, we have regained control of the strategic town of Al-Nayrab, the gateway of Saraqeb, after expelling the terrorist Russian militias.”
A Turkish military official also commented on the achievement, saying that Turkey had backed the opposition’s offensive with aerial shelling and with bomb disposal teams clearing the town.
The next goal on Turkey and the Syrian opposition’s list, said the official, is reportedly to retake the even more significant and key town of Saraqeb, a short distance to the east of Al-Nayrab. “This will happen soon. The regime suffered heavy losses in the clashes last night. Also, a serious amount of weapons and ammunition was seized,” he said.
There were reportedly no clashes which occurred between Turkish and Russian forces in yesterday’s recapture, as well as no deaths of Turkish soldiers while there were heavy casualties among the regime forces who withdrew.
The province of Idlib, which is the last major opposition stronghold in Syria’s nine-year-long civil war, was originally meant to be a de-escalation or safe zone, as stated under the agreement struck between Turkey and Russia back in September 2018.
That pact, however, was violated by both the Syrian regime and its ally Russia when they launched a campaign in April last year. In recent months, the regime has made significant gains, especially with the support of Russian ground troops and Iranian forces, enabling it to retake around half of Idlib province so far, including key towns and cities and the strategic M5 highway.
The recapture of Al-Nayrab – and the potential future recapture of Saraqeb – signifies the growing counter-offensive by the opposition forces against the regime’s campaign, while Turkey will again attempt to stop the advance by negotiating with Russia, Germany and France in talks next week.