Turkey’s armed forces in Syria’s north-west province of Idlib have hacked into Syrian army radio frequencies yesterday and issued a warning not to violate the de-escalation zone. Local sources reported the incident to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
The message from the Turkish army was clear: “The leaders of your army are putting your lives at risk and leading you to death when they order you to bomb the de-escalation zone. Do not penetrate the de-escalation area or you will receive a deadly response.”
The de-escalation zone in Idlib was determined in an agreement struck between Turkey and Russia on 5 March. This followed at least a week of Turkish bombardment and retaliation against the forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad after they killed 34 Turkish soldiers.
The zone now stretches 6 kilometres either side of the M4 highway, within which joint Turkish-Russian patrols operate in order to maintain the ceasefire. Such patrols continue despite the ceasefire being broken by the Assad regime forces just minutes after it came into effect, and many times since.
The radio hacking incident came as the SOHR reported Turkey’s continued military build-up in Idlib in case the agreement breaks down; a column of 25 armoured vehicles entered Syria from Turkey yesterday. Since the agreement came into effect, around 2,100 armoured vehicles and thousands of troops have been transported to the province by Turkey.
Speculation is rife that regime forces and Russia troops will continue to violate the de-escalation zone and relaunch the offensive to capture Idlib, which is the last major opposition-held stronghold in Syria.