Syrian gov’t forces capture most of Aleppo province before Turkey-Russia talks

Syrian regime forces seized more than 30 sites in Western Aleppo after major rebel withdrawal from the area on Sunday, taking control of the entire Aleppo city for the first time in eight years, state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported.

On the same day, Russian warplanes carried out airstrikes in the Aleppo countryside, attacking towns including Anadan, which was later seized by regime forces, Reuters reported.

The local sources claimed on Sunday that Russia also used its battleships in the Mediterranean to shell the towns in Western Aleppo with ballistic missiles.

The territorial changes came a day before Turkey-Russia talks over the situation in Idlib expected to be held in Moscow on Monday.

After the latest advances by loyalist troops, the number of Turkish military observation posts in the Idlib, Aleppo, and Hama countrysides that are surrounded by the regime forces rose to 12 out of 34, local sources said.

Meanwhile, Ankara carried on with the military buildup in the Idlib region, as hundreds of tanks, armored vehicles and buses carrying special forces formed kilometers-long convoys near the border.

According to the war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Turkey sent more than 2100 military vehicles and 7000 troops into the Idlib de-escalation zone in the last two weeks.

The relations of Ankara and Moscow soured after the recent advances by the Syrian government in the northwestern region of the country. Both sides back opposing parties in the conflict, but the last couple of years saw collaboration efforts toward a political solution to the prolonged civil war which ravaged the country since 2011.

Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey, which backs factions eyeing to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, fumed at Syrian attacks in the Idlib region that killed 13 Turkish troops in two weeks on Wednesday. Ankara urged Russia to prevent the attacks, vowing to drive back the Syrian forces unless they withdraw by the end of the month.

Syrian regime forces are within 10 km of the provincial capital Idlib city, home to more than 1 million people, causing nearly 800,000 to flee toward the Turkish border.

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