Long-standing tension between Turkey and the Bashar Assad regime just turned into a hot conflict. At this rate, everything else will take a backseat to military operations. The critical question is whether Turkey has moved to the "second" stage in Idlib – holding territory, reinforcing observation posts and exercising control around them, and enforcing a safe zone, 30-40 kilometers deep, for Syrian refugees and displaced persons.
The most recent escalation in Idlib occurred due to incessant violations of the cease-fire by Russia and regime forces, citing "terror attacks" despite no notable Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) activity in the area. Turkey maintained its patience to keep the peace. Meanwhile, the opposite side continued bombing civilian areas, including schools and hospitals. The regime's attempt to take the city of Saraqib and control the M5 highway after capturing Maarat al-Nouman was a deal-breaker for the Turks.
It is a thinly veiled secret that the regime wants to force Turkey to vacate its observation posts in Idlib. In the face of the Assad regime's reckless attacks, there was no option left but to ramp up military activity. Hence, Turkey reinforced its observation posts and heightened Syrian opposition activity.
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