Syrian army destroys terrorist hideouts in Idlib – as Russia accuses US of using Kurds to set up a ‘quasi-state’

Children in Qamshili, in Syria’s Hama province celebrate the liberation of their region from terrorists

SYRIAN military forces are continuing to target terrorist hideouts in northwestern Syria where the government has been restraining its offensives based on a de-escalation agreement signed and monitored by international powers.

The state-run SANA news agency said military forces had managed to destroy the hideouts of terrorists in southern countryside of the Idlib province and in areas bordering the province in the neighbouring Hama.

It said the hideouts mostly belonged to the Nusra Front, a terrorist organisation which is not included in a de-escalation agreement signed between Russia, Syria’s main ally, and Turkey, which backs some groups of militants in the region in its alleged bid to contain a Kurdish militancy that could spread to its own territories.

Reports said two Turkish troops had been wounded in a shelling attack which Ankara authorities said had come from territories held by the Syrian government. The two soldiers were moved to Turkey for treatment of their light injuries, they said.

The Syrian military attacks mostly targeted terrorists’ hideouts in Jabal al-Zawiya in Idlib and rural northern Hama. Reports by opposition forces say between 30 and 60 people have been killed in five days of military attack in the region.

The new wave of attacks comes as Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has repeatedly vowed to retake every inch of the territory once controlled by militants and terrorist groups.

Many of the terrorists holding out in Idlib are militants who once fought in other areas in Syria and were transferred to the northwestern province as part of deals with the government to hand over the occupied territories and disarm.

The attacks also come amid claims by Russia that a de-escalation agreement signed with Turkey and meant to reduce violence in Idlib has not been implemented.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that his country could help the Syrian army in launching a full-scale military assault on militants in Idlib. He said, however, that time was not ripe for such an all-out attack.

Russia has denounced a recent meeting of tribes in Syria, organised by US-backed Kurdish militants, saying Washington is using the Kurds to split the Arab country and continue its illegal military presence there.

‘The United States and its allies have been consistently carrying out a course towards settling the Syrian crisis only with the goal of ensuring its long-term presence in Syria,’ Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

To that aim, it added, Washington and its allies are using Kurdish militants who ‘are now seeking to set up a quasi-state on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River with the US assistance.’

The statement came one day after the town of Ayn Issa, situated in Syria’s northern Raqqah Province, hosted the so-called Syrian clans conference.

The event was organised by the so-called Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), the political wing of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – a US-backed anti-Damascus alliance of mainly Kurdish militants.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the majority of Arab tribes’ leaders in the Eastern Euphrates opposed the meeting, but the US used tactics such as force, blackmail and bribery to gather the participants.

The event’s organisers had even recruited participants from refugee camps, including the al-Hawl camp in Hasakah Province, it added.

‘This event, which is obviously aimed at splitting the country, blatantly violates the declared UN principles of preserving territorial integrity and state sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic, including those stipulated by Resolution 2254 of the UN Security Council,’ the statement read.

‘The move is clearly aimed at undermining the efforts of the international community, the UN and guarantor states (Russia, Iran, Turkey) of the Astana format on settling the Syrian crisis as soon as possible,’ it added.

Syria has already condemned the Ayn Issa gathering as ‘a meeting of treason, treachery, and subjugation.’

An official source at the Syrian Foreign Ministry said such events confirm that their ‘organisers are pursuing delusions that have been proven throughout history to be impossible to realise, especially during the final years of the terrorist war, regardless of how much foreign support they receive or how much they subjugate themselves to the US or others.’

The source further warned Syria militants that ‘accepting the dictations’ of the Americans or others would only bring them ‘shame and disgrace.’

In an address to the Ayn Issa meeting on Saturday, the SDF expressed its readiness to hold talks with Damascus over the future of the territory under its control in Syria’s northeast, but rejected a government-prescribed reconciliation agreement.

‘We are ready for dialogue with… the central government, in order to reach a democratic solution for all of Syria, including the northeast’ said SDF chief Mazloum Kobani.

However, ‘we cannot solve existing issues, and large problems in this region… through reconciliation’ deals, he noted.

‘The Americans must leave and will leave,’ Syria’s defence minister says.

Back in March, Syrian Defence Minister Ali Abdullah Ayoub said SDF militants had to agree to ‘national reconciliation or the liberation of the areas that they control through force.’

  • Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad says the Damascus government ‘will not allow Turkey to control even one centimetre of the Syrian territory,’ stressing that Ankara should know that ‘Damascus will not accept the survival of militant groups’ in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib.

‘The Damascus government’s resolution is to liberate every inch of the Syrian territory, and Idlib is no exception,’ Mekdad said in an exclusive interview with the Lebanon-based Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network.

He added: ‘The Turks and others should know that the Syrian government is determined to recover all of Syrian soil. Turkey must also understand that its support for terrorism and its occupation of the Syrian territory will not guarantee security.’

The high-ranking Syrian official then advised US-sponsored Kurdish militant groups active in northern Syria to stop being used as a pawn by Washington, and to prove loyalty to their homeland.

Mekdad told the pro-government and Arabic-language al-Watan daily newspaper on November 4 last year that ‘occupation’ forces from Turkey must depart the territories of his conflict-plagued Arab country in order for security and stability to be restored there.

‘The Syrian Arab army is the only party that stands against the Turkish occupation of the Syrian territories,’ he said.

‘We believe that these Kurdish parties should return to the spirit of citizenship and to believe in their homeland; not to use Americans, Israelis and others against the interests of their native soil,’ Mekdad said when asked about calls by some Kurdish militant groups in the areas controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to stand against Turkish attacks.

The Syrian deputy foreign minister added: ‘The Syrian army stands with all groups, parties and tribes in order to tackle terrorism for the benefit of Syrian people.’

He stated that Syria will eventually emerge victorious over terrorism and its sponsors, and all areas will be liberated from the clutches of Americans, Turks and separatists, thanks to the high motivation and sacrifices made by the Syrian nation and Syrian army.

The senior Syrian official highlighted that the Damascus government cannot trust Turkish assurances, because Ankara’s objectives are colonial and expansionist.

‘The Ankara government misleads the public opinion inside Turkey and in the (Middle East) region by announcing something but implementing something else,’ Mekdad commented.