Russia’s defence ministry claims that Ankara and Moscow coordinated attacks on Idlib, but Turkish Armed Forces tell TRT World that the claims do not reflect reality.
On Wednesday, Russian planes in support of the Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad conducted one of the most intense bombardments of Idlib in months, Syria’s last remaining rebel bastion.
Citing the Russian defence ministry, Reuters reported that Idlib was hit in coordination with Turkey, targeting drones and weapons stores of the former Al Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir Sham (HTS).
But a source in the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) told TRT World that the "news does not reflect reality" with regards to Turkish cooperation with Russia in the assault on Idlib.
Residents say the planes conducted at least 12 bombardments on residential areas in the northwestern rebel enclave, which is protected by a “de-escalation” agreement between Turkey, Russia and Iran last year.
Multiple reports suggest Wednesday’s attacks on the outskirts of Idlib, where the central prison is located, led to dozens of alleged Daesh fighters and regime prisoners escaping.
At least 15 people, including eight children and two women, were killed in the attack and 49 people were injured, Syria Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets said on Thursday.
The White Helmets are a volunteer rescue group operating in rebel-held areas
Five Syrians injured in the bombardment are currently being treated in the Turkish border town of Hatay, according to an Anadolu Agency report. Syria Civil Defence says the rescue operations are still ongoing.
The Russian attack on Idlib comes in the wake of Turkey and Russia’s joint patrols in and around Idlib under a deal reached last fall between the two countries.
Announcing the start of the joint patrol in Idlib on March 8, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar encouraged Russia on Friday to prevent the Syrian regime from conducting attacks on Idlib, in order to respect the truce banning acts of aggression in the region.
Under the deal, Turkey has been pushing to disarm extremist groups, primarily HTS, which Ankara designated as a terrorist organisation in August 2018, in an attempt to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.
As a result of HTS attacks on its rival in Idlib, the Turkey-backed National Liberation Front (NLF) agreed to strike a deal in January with the group in an attempt to put an end to the fighting. Currently, more than three million civilians are stuck in Idlib.
“The deal last September set up a demilitarised zone in Idlib and other areas, but the Syrian regime has repeatedly violated the ceasefire in Idlib,” Akar said last week.
On Thursday, Akar said that Ankara and Moscow were planning to form a coordination centre in Idlib and that Turkey’s purchase of F-35 jets from the Pentagon’s top weapons supplier was expected to be delivered in November.