DAMASCUS, SYRIA (11:30 AM) – The Russian Air Force has made over 30 bombing raids against several anti-ceasefire rebel groups in northern Syria in the past week. The raids took place in the Aleppo and Idlib Governorates, in areas that were officially part of the de-escalation zones that were agreed upon by Syria, Russia, Iran and Turkey during a recent round of negotiations in Astana.

Despite the fact that both the Syrian Arab Army and most of the “moderate rebels” of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) have agreed to a ceasefire under supervision of Russia, Iran and Syria, there still remain significant rebel groups that have rejected the terms. Especially in Idlib Governorate, where the Al-Qaeda offshoot named Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) is very active, many terrorists remain adamant in their campaign against Syria.

The Russian aerial sorties targeted Anadan, Haritan, Kafr Hamra and Dart Izza in the north and west of Aleppo Governorate, as well as various towns in the Idlib countryside, most of them being in hands of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham.

Various sources have it that during the September 28 meeting between Russian president Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the two spoke at length about the need for military action against rebel groups that refuse to join the de-escalation agreement. To that end, Turkey reportedly agreed to give military intel and even coordinates of anti-ceasefire rebel groups and bases to Moscow.

The cooperation between Russia and Turkey was completed by the fact that several of the Russian raids against HTS took place right along the Turkish border. During their flights, the Russian fighter bombers were even allowed to fly into Turkish airspace unhindered  in order to complete their mission.

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Relations between Russia and Turkey seem to be on the friendliest of levels in recent times. The two nations have had significant differences in the past, especially related to the Syrian Civil War. On November 25, 2015, Turkish forces shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-25 plane near the Syrian-Turkish border, causing a significant dent in mutual relations. Since then however, both nations have worked towards a mending of ties.

Especially after the July 2016 attempted coup against Turkish president Erdogan and his administration, which Erdogan has accused the US to have been at least partially responsible for, the bond between Ankara and Moscow saw a significant boost. In May of 2017, president Putin had already spoken about the fact that relations between the two nations had “fully recovered”, something that the joint Russo-Turkish-Iranian de-escalation plan and the recent rounds of strategical cooperation is a testimony of.

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Historian specialized in Arab history, Islamic studies and geopolitical analysis. Based in Belgium.

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