Conflict

Idlib: Signs Of Military Escalation Despite Ceasefire

Syria

Despite the relative calm in the Idlib region following the ceasefire agreed upon by Russia and Turkey, military reinforcements are still being sent to the region.

Since the ceasefire agreed upon by Russia and Turkey last week to put a halt to military clashes in the Idlib, the region has been experiencing relative calm. However, although the ceasefire seems to be holding for the moment, military reinforcements are being sent to the region and preparations are being made for a possible renewed outbreak of hostilities.

The variety of rebel groups active in the Idlib region are known to be re-grouping and reports state that a number of them may decide to unite as a single faction. These groups include Jaysh al-Ahrar, the Syrian Liberation Front and the Suqour al-Sham Brigades. There are claims that Hurras al-Din and Nour al-Din al-Zinki may also be involved in joining forces.

The largest rebel group in the region, Hayy’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) is currently known to be operating separately, while the other groups are being backed by Turkey.

Several of the above-mentioned Turkish-backed rebel groups, however, have recently voiced opposition to elements of the ceasefire agreement, especially regarding the division of the M4 Highway. The southern part of the highway will be controlled by the Russian side, whence certain rebel forces were requested to withdraw, while Turkey will be in control of the northern side. Rebel groups involved in recently capturing territories surrounding the M4 Highway have criticised Turkey’s surrendering of the territories in negotiations with Russia. Although those groups are heavily reliant on Turkish support, this compromise may lead to aggravated tensions in the future.

In recent days, only minor incidents have been recorded in Idlib province and the surrounding region. There is as of yet no indication whether military confrontation will flare up once more or whether there will be a political settlement between the Syrian regime and the rebel groups. Recent experience has shown that military solutions have been favoured, however, there does now exist a political framework within which political negotiations are possible – the Syrian Constitutional Commission – which has as of yet proven to be largely ineffective.