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Turkey drones drop leaflets over Idlib calling for civilian support

April 28, 2020 at 2:20 pm

Turkish military drone at Gecitkale Airport on 16 December 2019 [Muhammed Enes Yıldırım/Anadolu Agency]

Turkish drones have been dropping leaflets over areas in Syria’s north-western Idlib province, calling on inhabitants to assist the Turkish military in restoring peace and stability in the region, the UK-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights has reported.

The leaflets, which are both in Arabic and Turkish, read: “Our dear brothers in Idlib, the Turkish army has always been with you, has always harnessed all its capabilities for you and gave many martyrs to preserve the lives and property of the people of Idlib.

Turkey is working hard at all levels to ensure lasting stability and to stop the flow of innocent blood and to maintain your safety in the region.”

It stated that throughout its military presence in the province during the ongoing Syrian civil war, its goals have been “to prevent any invasion or military action on Idlib, returning civilians who have been forced to flee their homes and revive economic life in the region by opening the M4 and M5 roads.”

Since the Syrian regime’s offensive to recapture the last opposition-held stronghold launched in April 2019, Turkey has backed opposition forces to repel the offensive and its bombardment campaign on the civilian population.

That came to a head around two months ago when Syrian regime forces killed 34 Turkish soldiers, causing the Turkish military to severely punish the regime and force it to halt the offensive. A deal was then struck between Turkey and Russia, Syria’s ally, to enforce a ceasefire and establish a safe zone along the strategic M4 highway.

READ: Ex-Russia envoy to Syria slams Assad regime as unfit to rule

The leaflet continues by saying: “We wish you would help the Turkish army, which works for you so that you can live safely and peacefully in your area, do not believe the lies of those who are disturbed by the calm and peaceful environment that we provide in Idlib, those who want to deceive you and spread sedition among brothers, and we will work to bring security and peace to the region.”

The leaflets and their call for civilian support for the Turkish military come at a time when tensions are rising between the Turkish-backed opposition groups and other groups such as Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) in the province. As part of the deal struck on 5 March, joint Turkish-Russian patrols are being carried out along the M4 highway, causing many of the local civilians and HTS to protest over the Russian military presence.

Over the weekend, clashes broke out on the highway when a protest was being broken up, resulting in three HTS members being killed by Turkish forces and a number of Turkish troops being injured, raising the threat of further tensions.

Leafleting by aircraft has repeatedly been used by all sides of the Syria conflict in an effort to win hearts and minds and urge opposition fighters to surrender to the regime.

READ: The Russia-Turkey Idlib deal is as bad as Trump’s ‘deal of the century’