Much of the Turkish military equipment being sent into Syria finds its way into the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra* immediately after crossing the border, a military-diplomatic source told Sputnik on Saturday.
According to the source, who asked to remain unidentified, Syria’s Idlib de-escalation zone now contains over 70 Turkish-sourced tanks, about 200 armoured vehicles and 80 pieces of artillery.
The source said that Turkish armoured vehicles, poorly driven by their untrained terrorist crews, are being spotted more and more often by the Syrian Army. “In the last week alone, government forces repelling attacks by militants destroyed over 20 Turkish-supplied tanks and infantry fighting vehicles,” the source said.
The source also indicated that US-made MANPAD air defence systems being used by terrorists in Idlib were sourced from Turkish military stocks. “The US MANPADS which were in service with the Turkish armed forces, which the militants did not have access to before, fell into the hands of the terrorists thanks to Turkish deliveries,” the source said.
Calling these weapons’ deployment in Idlib a “major” source of concern, the source warned that “nobody in Ankara, and especially in Washington, knows where these weapons will end up in the future.”
Turkey is also responsible for providing terrorist militants in Idlib with Turkish Army uniforms, the source said, saying this was another cause for concern, as it allows terrorists to attack Syrian forces under the guise of being Turkish troops, with which Syria and its partners have sought to avoid an escalation.
Finally, the source alleged that Ankara is continuing to transfer personnel, weapons and equipment into Idlib, despite Ankara’s statements about seeking a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
Turkish officials did not immediately comment on the allegations made by the source.
Turkey Threatens Full-Scale Campaign in Idlib
Earlier in the day, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay told Turkish media that Ankara would use force to drive the Syrian Army out of Idlib completely unless Damascus withdrew its forces from the province by the end of the month. “The regime must know this: if attacks on our military continue, Turkey will know no bounds [in its retaliation]. This message was clearly conveyed to Russia,” Oktay said.
Two Syrian Army helicopters were shot down in northern Syria over the past week, with one of the helicopters downed over Idlib on Tuesday, and a second destroyed over a militant-controlled area of neighbouring Aleppo province. Nusra terrorists are believed responsible for destroying both helicopters.
Turkey reported on the ‘neutralization’ of dozens of Syrian troops this week, including a massive attack against 115 Syrian Army targets in Idlib on Monday in response to an artillery strike on a Turkish observation post in the region which killed eight Turkish nationals and injured several others. On Friday, the Russian Defence Ministry-affiliated Centre for Reconciliation in Syria refuted the Turkish military's claims about the deaths of "dozens" of Syrian troops, calling the claims "irresponsible" and warning that they may lead to an escalation and to hasty decisions.
Syria began an anti-terrorist operation in Idlib in December after militants repeatedly violated a 2017 ceasefire brokered by Russia, Iran and Turkey, killing dozens of Syrian troops in artillery strikes and sneak attacks. This week, Damascus vowed to continue fighting terrorists in Idlib and throughout the country notwithstanding Turkish threats, and accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of supporting, arming and training terrorists operating in the region.
Earlier, Russia’s Defence Ministry said Turkey was responsible for the escalation of tensions in Idlib, and accused Ankara of failing to adhere to commitments to separate moderate opposition fighters from Nusra and other terrorists.
* aka Al-Qaeda in Syria, a terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.