Jihadis rout Ankara’s allies, complicating Turkey’s Idlib mandate

Here is a brief overview of how the current situation developed

As Turkey faces obstacles in the Syrian military operation it plans for Manbij and northeast Syria, drama is developing in Idlib province, where 12 Turkish posts overlook what is supposed to be a de-escalation zone.

Since the beginning of January, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham — a coalition of Islamist factions in northern Syria — has routed the opposition groups Turkey had merged under the banner of the National Liberation Front.

The clashes erupted Jan. 1 after the National Liberation Front’s Nour al-din al-Zenki Movement killed five Hayat Tahrir al-Sham fighters in Darat Izza, drawing in other National Liberation Front groups such as Ahrar al-Sham, Thuwar al-Sham and Biyareq al-Islam. For the National Liberation Front factions, the outcome was a debacle. In 10 days, they lost nearly 90 localities to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, greatly complicating the September deal Turkey and Russia had reached in Sochi to establish the de-escalation zone around Idlib in areas including parts of western Aleppo, northwestern Hama and northeastern Latakia.

Here is a brief overview of how the current situation developed.

On Jan. 2, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham captured Darat Izza and four other towns in western Aleppo and the National Liberation Front’s Nour al-din al-Zenki fighters took refuge in Turkey-controlled Afrin, leaving behind dozens of vehicles, including tanks. The National Liberation Front retaliated by taking three localities in southern Idlib from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

On Jan. 3, while clashes continued elsewhere, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham seized four localities in Hama province. The following day, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham also made advances also in western Aleppo, capturing Sinhar, al-Hutah and the military base in Sheikh Suleiman that had been Nour al-din al-Zenki’s main headquarters.

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