Regime strikes disrupt peace achieved by Sochi deal in Idlib

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 26.01.2019 00:09

Idlib continues to suffer from the Bashar Assad regime's strikes, which threaten the peaceful atmosphere in the province achieved through the Sochi deal signed between Turkey and Russia.

Anadolu Agency (AA) drones in the region monitored the Latamne town of Idlib, near the regime forces' frontline. The footage from the drone's recordings showed that most of the houses, schools and mosques in the town are heavily damaged due to eight years of air and ground attacks.

"The deal between Russia and Turkey had positive impacts over our region. Most of the displaced locals returned to their homes," said Ahmad Mansour, a local, emphasizing that despite positive developments the regime strikes continue to harm the region by violating the deal.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in September 2018, following their talks in Sochi, to establish a demilitarized zone in Idlib in order to decrease tension and prevent a new conflict in the province. According to the 10-article memorandum signed between Ankara and Moscow during the meeting, the Idlib de-escalation area will be preserved, and Turkish observation posts will be fortified and continue to function. Russia will also take all necessary measures to ensure that military operations and attacks on Idlib are avoided, and the existing status quo is maintained. The agreement also envisages the removal of "all radical terrorist groups" from the demilitarized zone by October 2019.

The Syrian regime, however, is continuing its aggression in Idlib, home to more than 3.5 million Syrians, many of whom fled from other cities in the war-torn country. At the beginning of the month, regime forces and Iranian-backed terrorist groups fired artillery into villages situated inside the de-escalation zone, killing at least one civilian. According to local sources, the regime targeted villages in the countryside of the Homs and Idlib governorates.

Underlining that after the deal, the only water tank, roads and schools of the town have been restored; Mansour, who spoke to AA, said that the continuous violations of the regime interrupts displaced Syrians' return to the region. He added that the ones who returned have already escaped to neighboring settlements.

Galib Hussain, manager of a school in the town, said that the classrooms which were not heavily damaged by the bombings were restored by the locals and have enabled them to provide education again.

"Yet, the regime forces started to bomb the town again, right at the exam period of the schools. We had to give a break for exams to protect the lives of the teachers and students," said Hussain.

Another local resident Mahmoud Hamavi said regime forces had most recently attacked a local civil-defense center.

"Civilians will either have to go up north, where there are refugee camps, or die here," he said. "But even the camps aren't safe anymore due to heavy rainfall," he said.

Hamavi added: "People are left with only one option: to try to make it to Europe through Turkey."

Not only regime forces but also al-Qaida-linked terrorist organizations, including the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) have been trying to undermine the Sochi deal, which brought stability to the governorate by warding off a likely regime offensive and a humanitarian disaster.

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