Russia carries out air strikes against militants in Syria’s Idlib

The Russian Ministry of Defence said on Thursday that its planes had carried out four air strikes against militants in Syria's Idlib region. (File/AFP)
Updated 13 June 2019

Russia carries out air strikes against militants in Syria’s Idlib

  • The Syrian army and its allies shelled rebel-held areas of northwest Syria on Thursday and attacked a Turkish observation post
  • Russia is Damascus’s main ally in the civil war between Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels seeking to oust him, using its warplanes to bombard opposition areas

MOSCOW: The Russian Ministry of Defence said on Thursday that its planes had carried out four air strikes against militants in Syria's Idlib region, the RIA news agency reported.
The Russian military said that the Turkish army had asked for its help to protect Turkish troops by striking "terrorists in Idlib".

Earlier, the Syrian army and its allies shelled rebel-held areas of northwest Syria on Thursday and attacked a Turkish observation post, Ankara and a monitoring group said, despite Russia saying it and Turkey had brokered a new cease-fire.

However, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday said a ceasefire had not been fully secured in Syria's northwestern Idlib province, despite the announcement by Moscow.
"We are working hard with Russia to stop these attacks. It is not possible to say a complete ceasefire has been secured," Cavusoglu told a press conference with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Turkey’s Defense Ministry said Syrian government forces carried out what it assessed to be a deliberate attack, firing 35 mortar shells at one of its observation posts in the de-escalation zone in Idlib, wounding three Turkish soldiers and damaging equipment and facilities.
Ankara has made representations to Moscow about the incident, the defense ministry said. It did not say when exactly the attack happened.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said air strikes on rebel-held areas paused overnight, but resumed on Thursday morning. They targeted the area around Khan Sheikhoun, an opposition-held town in southern Idlib province, it said, adding that the insurgents had also fired artillery at government forces.
On Wednesday, the Russian military said that Moscow and Ankara had agreed a full cease-fire in the northwest, centered on Idlib, but it did not say how long the truce would last.
The Syrian government launched its offensive against northwest Syria, the last major stronghold of the rebellion against it, in late April.
Russia is Damascus’s main ally in the civil war between Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels seeking to oust him, using its warplanes to bombard opposition areas. Turkey backs some insurgent groups.
Moscow and Ankara had agreed a partial truce last September that called for an end to bombardment of the area and for Ankara to pull heavy weapons and militant groups from frontline areas.
The fighting has caused hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom had already been displaced, to flee further north and seek shelter along the Turkish border.
Turkey has pushed Russia to rein in the government’s offensive while Russia has said Turkey must curb the militant groups that dominate in Idlib.


Hundreds of employees fired from Turkey’s Incirlik air base

Updated 25 January 2020

Hundreds of employees fired from Turkey’s Incirlik air base

  • Incirlik Air Base is located in Turkey’s Adana province, near the Syrian border, and it has been a strategic element in ties between Ankara and Washington
  • It has also played a key role for the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the past

ANKARA: More than 420 people working at a crucial military air base in southern Turkey have lost their jobs, with some analysts considering it symbolic of decreased cooperation levels with the US and as the Pentagon reconsiders Middle East deployments.
Incirlik Air Base is located in Turkey’s Adana province, near the Syrian border, and it has been a strategic element in ties between Ankara and Washington. It has also played a key role for the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the past, as well as hosting US nuclear warheads.
The Colorado-based company Vectrus System Corporation, which provides day-to-day maintenance and operation services at the base, terminated the contracts of almost half of its employees at the base earlier this month.
“The base surged to support OIR,” Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told Arab News. “The Turkey-based staff for OIR has mostly left. So, the base is going back to its pre-OIR level of people, and that level requires less contractor support.”
Vectrus did not reply to Arab News’ request for comment about its decision to scale back at the base.
Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, said the move was largely symbolic as the canceled contracts related to logistical support rather than the US military mission.
“But obviously, it comes against the background of some tensions in the US-Turkish relationship and previous hints by Ankara that it might reconsider the status of the Incirlik base,” he told Arab News. “The Pentagon is reconsidering its deployment across the Middle East and it might be looking to become less dependent on Incirlik without fully exiting this crucial military air base.”
Incirlik air base has been used in the past as a bargaining chip at times of tension between the two countries.
“Turkey may re-evaluate the status of the Incirlik Air Base if the US imposes sanctions,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last month in an interview with pro-government channel A-Haber, referring to the potential fallout from Turkey’s decision to buy an air defense system from Russia. 
Washington has threatened to use its Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act to punish Ankara for buying the S-400 system.
Seth J. Frantzman, who is executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, said reports of the US reducing presence at Incirlik, or challenges to the US presence there, have been growing over the last years.
“Whether these reports relate to changes or are just random is unclear and it is important to note that the large interests of the military and history tend to mean the US does not simply walk away from bases, even if it reduces its role slowly over time,” he told Arab News.
The US has invested heavily in the Jordanian Muwaffaq Salti Air Base to expand its presence there.