Idlib will not suffer the same fate as Daraa: Syrian opposition commander
Russia is redeploying the same tactic it used against Daraa in the southwest, pointed Major İbrahim Majbour to Yeni Şafak daily
News ServiceYeni Şafak
Idlib will not suffer the same fate as Syria’s southwestern Daraa province, vowed a Free Syrian Army (FSA) commander as a ground offensive against the last opposition-held stronghold looms.
Russia is redeploying the same tactic it used against Daraa in the southwest, pointed out Major İbrahim Majbour, who commands the FSA-affiliated Free Idlib Army.
“Russia wants to apply the Daraa model in Idlib, however, it will not suffer the same fate,” said Majbour, noting that Russia is currently trying to divide Idlib into five different regions through its intensified bombardment aimed at severing all links between them.
‘We have surprises in store for them’
Speaking exclusively to Yeni Şafak daily, the commander pointed out that while Russia does not possess any ground forces in the region, it will attempt to reach its goals through airpower backed by laying siege from the ground with the help of Iranian-backed militias.
Noting the dissimilarities between Idlib and Daraa from geographic and strategic standpoints, Majbour revealed that the opposition has prepared a three-phase plan to defend the region.
“There are very different developments in store for them in Idlib, we have surprises prepared for the regime and its allies,” said Majbour.
Turkey has the strongest hand
“We once again saw the true intentions of Russia and Iran during the Tehran summit. Turkey has the strongest hand both on the table and on the ground because it is the only side that wants reconciliation without bloodshed.”
“The people of Idlib are behind Turkey. For months, demonstrations have been held in every town and village. The whole world sees Turkey’s intense efforts. Those who want a show of force through bloodshed will realize that they will not actualize their goals.”
People take to the streets
Hundreds of thousands of civilians took to the streets across Idlib in opposition to the planned invasion.
Waving Turkish flags, demonstrators in a large number of towns of Idlib called for Turkish troops to enter the region, shouting anti-regime slogans and decrying Russian and Iranian actions.
The biggest demonstrations were held in central Idlib, Taftanaz, Kafranbel and Maaret al-Numan.
Dozens of spies arrested
“We were able to arrest dozens of instigators through the ongoing intelligence efforts of Turkey’s Idlib observation posts and opposition headquarters. There’s a large number of cells attempting to get people to surrender and spread chaos. There are cells that serve not only the PKK and Daesh, but also Russia and Iran. There have been 80 blasts over the past 10 days in Idlib. Simultaneously, the same provocations are ongoing in the axis of Jarabulus, Azaz, Afrin and al-Bab.”
A civilian exodus fleeing Russia and the Assad regime’s latest aerial bombardment has already begun as thousands poured toward the Turkish border.
With the threat of an impending massacre in Idlib looming closer every day, panicked civilians climbed concrete barriers set up by Turkey to jump across the border.
Carrying only a few items with them, Syrians crossed the security wall and sought refuge in Hatay’s Altınözü district across the border.
‘We’d enter Aleppo’
The FSA commander stated that the opposition has taken numerous measures against any possible attempts to invade Idlib, stressing that they possess the firepower to counter any regime attacks, which will not be restricted to “defensive actions.”
Majbour added that their respect for Turkey’s diplomatic efforts is the sole reason they have not mounted any attack up to this point, noting that as soon as battle breaks out, the opposition would overrun Latakia, Hama and Aleppo.
Syrian opposition sources said that Russian military aircraft -- flying out of the Hmeimim airbase -- had carried out at least 20 separate attack sorties in recent days.
On Tuesday, regime mortar and artillery fire targeted the Idlib town of Jisr al-Shughour and the northern Hama town of Haysh following Russian airstrikes against the region, where close to 4 million Syrians, the majority of whom are internally displaced, had sought refuge after fleeing violence raging in other parts of the war-torn country.
Russian strikes had killed nine civilians -- including five children -- in Jisr al-Shughur, while leaving at least 20 more people injured.
On Tuesday night, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov confirmed the attack, saying Russia's Hmeymim Airbase in Syria destroyed two drones with surface-to-air missiles.