Protesters cut short first Russian-Turkish patrol in Idlib, Syria
Hundreds of people in Idlib, northwest Syria, forced Russian and Turkish troops to cut short their first joint patrol along the province’s M4 east-west highway on Sunday when they blocked the road and then climbed on top of the patrolling tanks, Reuters reported, citing eyewitnesses and Russian news agencies.
The protesters and rebels blocked the road to show their opposition to the ceasefire deal signed by the countries on March 5 that stipulated joint patrols along the key highway, Reuters said.
Turkey launched a military operation after the Russian-backed Syrian government struck Turkish troops deployed in Idlib last month, killing dozens. The strike came after a months-long onslaught by Syrian government forces to recapture the last rebel-held province in the country that has driven nearly 1 million civilians to seek shelter near the Turkish border.
Turkey’s week-long military response killed or wounded thousands of Syrian government forces and destroyed more than 100 tanks, according to the Turkish Defence Ministry. But the ceasefire deal on March 5 allowed the Syrian government to keep the territory it had captured in Idlib.
The protesters gathered on Sunday to reject the deal, which they said would prevent them from returning to their homes.
“If the patrols happen without people being able to return to their lands, we oppose them,” Reuters quoted Osama Rahal, a military commander with the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army, as saying.
“We are at odds with Russians who have been killing us for six years and have bombed us by air. So we oppose their entry into our towns,” Reuters quoted 22-year-old Ahmed Shehad as saying.
The Russian Defence Ministry said the patrols had been cut short by “rebel provocations”, while Turkey’s Defence Ministry said it had been completed with air and land assets.