Syrian army forces on Monday made further progress north of Khan Sheikhoun city in Idlib, and took control of part of an international highway, which would prevent the Turkish reinforcement convoy that entered the area today from reaching its destination.
Syrian government forces, with Russian support, were able to enter the town of Khan Sheikhoun, the largest stronghold controlled by opposition factions in the southern countryside of Idlib late on Monday.
After heavy aerial and ground bombardment, the Syrian army managed to enter the town after armed groups withdrew from the area.
Khan Sheikhoun, the largest town in the south of Idlib, is located on the M5 highway between Aleppo and Damascus, which also passes through Homs.
This significant development is an important victory for the Syrian army.
As a result, it has reached the international highway linking Damascus and Aleppo.
In addition, after tightening control of the area, the northern countryside of Hama is also under the control of the Syrian government.
Ankara had announced earlier that a military convoy sent Monday to the south of Idlib for an air strike a day after the entry of Syrian army forces to the northwestern outskirts of Khan Sheikhoun.
Syrian army forces advanced north of Khan Sheikhoun and cut off the international road linking the southern countryside of Idlib to the northern countryside of Hama, where the largest Turkish observation posts are located in the town of Morek, thus completely isolated and the road to the town of Morek where there is a Turkish checkpoint is completely cut off.
An AFP correspondent on Monday afternoon saw the convoy of nearly 50 armored vehicles, armored personnel carriers, logistic vehicles and at least five tanks, parked on the international road in Maar Hattat village north of Khan Sheikhoun.
He reported heavy shelling with warplanes, assault rifles and helicopter gunships targeting nearby areas.
On Monday, the Turkish Defense Ministry strongly condemned the convoy’s raid on its way to the southern countryside of Idlib route to Morek.
“Despite repeated warnings to the authorities of the Russian Federation, the military operations carried out by the Syrian army in the Idlib area continue to violate the memorandums and agreements with Russia”, it said.
According to the information, a Russian plane targeted a minivan belonging to the opposition factions in the morning, which was exploring the road to the Turkish convoy on the northern outskirts of Maarat Al Numan, killing three opposition fighters supported by Ankara.
As the convoy arrived in the center of Maarat Al Numan, north of Khan Sheikhoun, Syrian and Russian aircraft carried out strikes on the outskirts of the city, “in an attempt to prevent the convoy from advancing”.
On the other hand, during their meeting, French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday during his meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in France that it is urgent to adhere to the ceasefire in Idlib.
“I am deeply concerned about the situation in Idlib.
The people of Idlib are living under shelling and the children are being killed”, he said.
“It is very urgent to abide by the ceasefire agreed in Sochi”.
“We support the Syrian regime’s efforts… to put an end to these terrorist threats”, he said.
“We’ve never said that the terrorists in Idlib will feel comfortable”, he said.
The arrival of the Turkish reinforcements angered Damascus.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry has denounced the entry of “Turkish munitions-loaded vehicles” on its way to Khan Sheikhoun to help the defeated terrorists.
The reinforcements came the day after Syrian army forces, with Russian air support, were able to enter the northwestern outskirts of Khan Sheikhoun, where complete control would lead to the blockade of the neighboring northern countryside of Hama.
Although covered by a Russian-Turkish agreement to reduce escalation and establish a demilitarized zone, areas in Idlib and parts of neighboring provinces have been subjected to almost daily bombardment by the army and its Russian ally since the end of April.
On the 8th of this month, Syrian government forces began fielding in the southern countryside of Idlib.
HTS (formerly Al Nusra Front) controls the majority of Idlib province and parts of its neighboring provinces, as well as other less influential opposition and Islamist factions.
Syrian army forces are trying to advance in Khan Sheikhoun, where they are engaged in fierce battles against the factions on its northwestern and eastern sides.
In addition to the restoration of the last section of the international road passing through Idlib, Syrian Army forces are attempting to “impose a siege on the northern countryside of Hama” by advancing to Khan Sheikhoun from the east.
The Sochi agreement, reached by Russia and Turkey since September 2018, requires the establishment of a demilitarized zone separating areas controlled by Syrian army forces and factions, the withdrawal of heavy and medium weapons by the opposition factions and the withdrawal of jihadist groups from the area in question.
However, although it has led to a decline in violence for some time, it hasn’t been implemented.
Turkey has deployed several checkpoints in Idlib and its environs, pursuant to agreements between it and Russia, most recently Sochi.