The al-Qaeda-affiliated Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) is preparing to launch drone attacks from the northwestern Syrian region of Greater Idlib, deputy head of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Parties in Syria, Rear Admiral Oleg Gurinov, revealed on April 6.
The TIP is a close ally of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the de-facto ruler of Greater Idlib and the former main branch of al-Qaeda in Syria.
“According to information obtained by the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Parties in Syria, militants of the TIP terrorist group, who occupy positions near the town of Kdura in the Idlib Governorate, are preparing to launch a provocative attack on positions held by Syrian government troops, including with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles modified for attack.” the deputy head of the reconciliation center, which is a part of the Russian Ministry of Defense, said.
The Russian officer went on to call on the commanders of all illegal armed groups in Syria to “refrain from provocations and engage in peaceful reconciliation efforts in areas under their control.”
In the last few months, HTS and its allies escalated their operations against Syrian government forces by carrying out raids, firing rockets and launching drone attacks. Five raids targeted military positions around Greater Idlib during March in a blatant violation of the ceasefire in the region, which was brokered by Russia and Turkey nearly three years ago. Most of the attacks were repelled.
The recent escalation by terrorist groups in Greater Idlib aims to sabotage Russian efforts to normalize ties between Ankara, who maintain a large force in the region, and Damascus.
Despite the unstable situation in Greater Idlib, the normalization process moved forward earlier this week as the deputy foreign ministers of Turkey and Syria met in Moscow for the first time in years. Damascus renewed calls for a complete Turkish military withdrawal from Syrian territory during the meeting.