The Syrian regime on Thursday announced the opening of a corridor to allow civilians wishing it to leave the Idleb region, where a military campaign by the Russian power and ally killed hundreds of people and led to an exodus of troops. population.
Supported by Russian aviation, Bashar al-Assad's regime has been bombarding the province of Idleb and neighboring areas in the north-west of the country at war, dominated by the jihadists of Hayat Tahrir al-Assad since the end of April. Cham (HTS) and sheltering rebel groups.
Nearly 900 civilians were killed in aerial bombardments and artillery on Idleb and adjacent areas at the hands of HTS and insurgents in neighboring provinces of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Man (OSDH).
The announced "corridor" is intended for the inhabitants of a region composed of several villages, straddling the south of Idleb and north of Hama, which is besieged by the pro-regime after their progress in recent days.
Throughout its reconquest in recent years, the government has opened such "corridors" to allow civilians to leave rebel strongholds and rally government regions or in the hands of its opponents. However, fearing arrests, residents are generally reluctant to borrow them.
"Syria announces the opening of a humanitarian corridor in the region of Surana in northern Hama province, to allow citizens wishing to leave terrorist-controlled areas in northern Hama and southern Somalia. Idleb, "said Foreign Affairs in Damascus.
The state television broadcast images showing green buses and ambulances stationed at Sourane, without specifying when to begin the exits.
- Tripartite Summit in Ankara -
The move came as Turkey, bordering Idleb province and supporting Syrian rebel groups, announced a summit on September 16 in Ankara between the Russian, Iranian and Turkish Syrian presidents.
It also takes place after the reconquest by the regime of Khan Cheikhoun, a city south of Idleb.
"With the conquest of Khan Cheikhoun, Russia is reaffirming its leading role in any discussion of Idleb," said Sam Heller of the International Crisis Group think tank.
For him, the regime and Moscow could pause in operations to "give time to Turkey to offer concessions."
The area concerned by the corridor also includes the localities of Morek, where there is a Turkish military observation post, and Kafr Zita, both in the province of Hama.
Turkey has several military observation posts in Idleb and Hama provinces.
The Turkish presidency warned that there was "no question of closing or moving" the observation post in Morek. "All other positions will be maintained".
On Thursday, regime planes fired a machine gun near a Turkish post in Idleb, according to Turkish state agency Anadolu.
- "Ghost Villages" -
The violence since April has pushed more than 400,000 people to flee according to the UN. Among them, the vast majority of the inhabitants living in the region concerned by the corridor according to the OSDH.
In the vicinity of Maaret al-Noomane, "most villages have been emptied of their inhabitants," told AFP Abu Hussein, a resident who fled the city for two days.
"These are ghost villages, there is no life left, just planes bombing," he said. Even if according to him rare inhabitants remained "to protect their houses".
The next goal of the regime seems to be the city of Maaret al-Noomane, north of Khan Cheikhoun, according to the OSDH. On Thursday, regime and Russian raids targeted nearby areas.
The two cities are on a strategic highway that connects the capital Damascus to Aleppo (north), two cities in the hands of the regime.
The Idleb region was supposed to be protected by an agreement on a "demilitarized zone", concluded in 2018 by Ankara and Moscow, but this agreement was only partly implemented.
Triggered in 2011 after the repression by the regime of pro-democracy demonstrations, the war in Syria, which became more complex with the involvement of several actors, left more than 370,000 dead.
Since 2015 and the military intervention of Moscow, the regime, already helped by Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah, has managed to take back nearly 60% of the territory.
© 2019 AFP