Turkey has equipped several militant groups with advanced weapons to help them forestall the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) progress in the northwestern region of Syria, senior opposition officials and rebel sources told the Reuters News Agency on Saturday.
The Syrian Army launched a large-scale aerial and ground assault as it sought to gain control of the last big stretch of rebel-held territory in the northwest of the country last month.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the militants had breached an existing ceasefire, triggering a civilian exodus by bombarding Idlib and adjacent areas. It has been the biggest escalation since last summer between the Syrian military and militants in the Idlib province and a belt of territory around it.
In response to this military action, Ankara stepped up supplies in recent days after Turkey and Russia failed to reach an agreement to end the fighting in Idlib and Hama.
The two countries held a meeting last month, in which Turkish President Erdogan, on his part, said Russia and Turkey can “change the destiny of the whole region” together.
Following that, the Russian Army Sunday declared that the Syrian Army had ceased its fire “unilaterally” in northwestern Syria, but Turkey denied this, claiming on its Defense Ministry’s website that Syrian government forces violated the ceasefire agreement reached with Russia for Idlib last September.
Overnight, a Turkish military convoy arrived at a base in northern Hama near rebel-held Jabal al-Zawiya, where Russian and Syrian jets have been pounding for weeks, a rebel and a witness said.
The delivery of dozens of armored vehicles, Grad rocket launchers, and anti-tank guided missiles helped roll back some Syrian Army gains and retake the strategically located town of Kafr Naboudeh, one senior opposition figure said on Saturday.
The TOW missile had been the most potent weapon in the arsenal of rebel groups battling the Syrian military since their arrival in 2014.
A Western intelligence source said Washington had given the “green light” to the Turkish-backed rebels to use the TOW missiles, which had been in storage in the latest campaign.
A spokesman for the Turkey-backed National Liberation Front (NLF), Captain Naji Mustafa, did not confirm or deny any new supplies by Turkey, saying rebels had long had a big arsenal of weapons from anti-tank to armored vehicles “alongside material and logistical support by our Turkish brothers.”
Sources: CGTN, Reuters