Artillery units of the regime forces on Friday night carried out intense attacks on the opposition’s frontline to seize the Turkmen Mountain in Syria’s northwestern Latakia province.

Turkmen people wait for the distribution of humanitarian aid by the Russian military and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in Al-Issawiyah, about 15 kilometers of Turkish border, Syria, Friday, March 4, 2016.
Turkmen people wait for the distribution of humanitarian aid by the Russian military and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in Al-Issawiyah, about 15 kilometers of Turkish border, Syria, Friday, March 4, 2016. (AP)

Bashar al Assad's regime and its supporters have begun striking Turkmen Mountain in Syria’s northwestern Latakia province to capture the region, which falls within a network of de-escalation zones.

Artillery units of the regime forces on Friday night carried out intense attacks to the opposition’s frontline to seize the Turkmen Mountain region.

After seizing the previously opposition-held areas of Daraa and Quneitra, the Assad regime is attempting to gain full control of Turkmen Mountain, according to Anadolu Agency correspondents on the ground in Idlib.

Over the past month, the regime, Iran-backed militia groups, and the pro-Syrian regime militant group THKP-C, led by Mihrac Ural, have been conducting reconnaissance patrols, military build-up and artillery shootings at the frontline.

An image of Syrian President Bashar Assad is placed on a car's window in Al-Issawiyah. Al-Issawiyah is populated by Turkmen, Turks' ethnic kin living in Syria.
An image of Syrian President Bashar Assad is placed on a car's window in Al-Issawiyah. Al-Issawiyah is populated by Turkmen, Turks' ethnic kin living in Syria. (AP)

According to opposition sources, Turkmen Mountain carries great importance since it is on the Idlib-Latakia route, and if it is seized, the regime will have full control of the coastal Latakia province.

The regime also conducted land and airstrikes in two villages and a town in Idlib Friday night, east of the Turkmen Mountains.

In 2015, the regime - backed by Russian air power - captured some 85 percent of Latakia’s Turkmen Mountain region, forcing some 20,000 of the area’s mainly Turkmen and Arab inhabitants to flee northward to Turkey.

Under and earlier agreement endorsed by Turkey, Russia and Iran, Turkmen Mountain falls within a network of de-escalation zones in which acts of aggression are expressly forbidden.

YPG and regime join forces

Around 1,300 PKK-linked YPG militants have crossed into regime-held territories in Syria's northwestern Aleppo province to help Assad’s forces in the anticipated operation to retake Idlib from rebel fighters, Anadolu Agency reported on Saturday citing sources on the ground in Aleppo.

The militants have been slowly making their way to the western countryside of Aleppo, on the fringes of Idlib, over the past two weeks, with the latest convoy of 100 YPG militants arriving on Saturday morning, having crossed in through Manbij.

This comes despite a pledge by the YPG to withdraw its militants from Manbij, which lies west of the Euphrates River, amid pressure from Turkey to keep the militants away from its southern borders.

The YPG is the Syrian branch of the PKK, which is recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the EU.
The YPG is the Syrian branch of the PKK, which is recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the EU. (AA)

Anadolu said the YPG militants plan to join forces with “Iranian-backed foreign terror groups” to begin operations on the opposition-held towns of Hayyan, Anadan, Hraytan, Al Uraymah, Ma'arrat al 'Atiq and Darat Izza. 

The area is close to the boundaries of the Afrin region, which the YPG recent lost following Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch, a border security mission undertaken earlier this year with Syrian opposition forces.

Turkey considers the YPG to be the Syrian branch of the PKK, which it considers to be a terrorist organisation, as does its NATO ally the US, as well as the EU. 

The mobilisation of the YPG in Aleppo marks the first time the group has manoeuvred to participate in the regime’s bid to regain Idlib since the regime and the YPG opened talks in July over the group’s gradual integration into the regime, Anadolu reported. 

Websites close to the YPG have previously said its militants will participate in the regime’s operations against opposition strongholds in Idlib and Aleppo. 

The YPG, which makes up the bulk of militants fighting for the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), controls around 27.7 percent of Syrian territory, mainly in the north and east of the country.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies