Aug. 19, 2019
Turkish officials are expressing anger on Monday at reports that one of their military convoys was attacked in northern Syria while advancing on an al-Qaeda-held town to make a delivery. The convoy was hit by a Syrian military airstrike.
The Syrian airstrike killed three civilians as the vehicles approached the town of Khan Sheikhoun, which is a town that the Syrian military has recently been contesting in their fights in Idlib Province.
Turkey says the Syrian strike is a violation of the series of military agreements they have with Russia on the Idlib Province. It doesn’t appear that Russia was involved, though since the Turkey-Russia ceasefires have all failed, and al-Qaeda was never meant to be a party in the first place, Russia would likely argue this doesn’t apply.
The Idlib Province has absorbed a huge number of rebel groups, including several Turkey-backed factions. Al-Qaeda’s affiliate, however, ultimately controls the area, and while they are neither part of nor officially aligned with Turkey’s faction, it is clear Turkey is backing them over Syria, and is framing this fight as a Russian violation of the deal, even though al-Qaeda actually refused the ceasefire terms that involved restoring the buffer zone between the two factions.
Once al-Qaeda disavowed the buffer zone, Syria resumed fighting with them, and has tried to take the territory outright. Since Turkey desperately doesn’t want to see Syria win the war, it’s not entirely shocking they moved to prevent a big al-Qaeda loss, but it’s also not surprising that Syria felt justified in hitting their convoy.
After all, Turkey has been meddling in north Syria for awhile, and that included invading nearby Kurdish territory, and fighting both the Kurdish YPG and Syria’s own military in the process.