Steven Sahiounie, journalist and political commentator
The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) repelled an attack by terrorists on Saraqib on Wednesday and in the early hours of Thursday. Saraqib is a city in northwestern Syria, located east of Idlib. The small city fell to terrorists in 2012 and was liberated by the SAA in 2020.
The SAA used artillery and missiles to halt the terrorists’ advance near Saraqib. Five terrorists were killed and 20 others wounded in the attack. Three Al-Sham Corps members and a member of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham were killed when the SAA targeted their positions and outposts on the Saraqib frontline.
Reinforcements were sent from Idlib to clash with the SAA, which had destroyed three four-wheel drive vehicles used by the terrorists. Previously, the SAA went on high alert in the countryside of Hama and Idlib anticipating attacks. The terrorists also shelled Al-Kabbanah at Jabal Al-Akrad in the northern countryside of Latakia.
Saraqib, at the intersection of the M4 and M5 highways connecting Damascus to Aleppo and Latakia, is crucial for the safe passage of cars, trucks, and buses traveling from Latakia to Aleppo. If Saraqib is under attack from terrorists emanating from Idlib, civilians and cargo will be forced to take a circuitous route adding hours to the trip, as well as using extra gasoline, at a time when Syria is experiencing high gas prices and shortages.
Saraqib fell to terrorists following Radical Islam in November 2012. By 2013, the Al Qaeda affiliate Jibhat al-Nusra and ISIS were in control.
Some civilians protested the groups. “We began chanting, ‘Saraqib is a civil state! We want a civil state!’ and one of them assaulted one of us, threatening, ‘We will attain our caliphate by force!’ and then they stamped on the Free Syrian Army flag and went away.”
In 2020, after eight years of terrorist occupation, the SAA liberated Saraqib by defeating Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the new name for Jibhat al-Nusra, the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. HTS rules Idlib with a Sharia Court and has set up an Islamic State in Idlib.
Who controls Idlib?
In a succession of reconciliation deals between the terrorists and the Syrian government, brokered by the Russians, terrorists, their families, and their supporters were bussed to Idlib from all over Syria over many years, which caused the population of Idlib to swell to about three million.
Idlib is now the only part of Syria that remains under terrorist control. In 2018, a de-escalation agreement was signed by Russia and Turkey which was to safeguard the M4 highways connecting Latakia with Aleppo and to remove the terrorists from the civilians. However, Turkey has never honored their part in the agreement and instead has continued to support the terrorists using Turkish military outposts in Idlib to prevent Russian or Syrian attacks on the terrorists in Idlib.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan follows the same Radical Islam political ideology as the terrorist groups, and his ruling AKP party is a Muslim Brotherhood-aligned party. Turkey had once been a secular government, but under the two decades of Erdogan’s rule has been transformed into an Islamic State-leaning government.
On June 16, Russia, Turkey, and Iran agreed to make further efforts to ensure calm in Syria’s Idlib de-escalation area, the three countries said in a joint statement after talks in Kazakhstan.
The meeting sent mixed messages, as they called for calm in Idlib, and the implementation of the Russian-Turkish previous agreement, while on the other hand nothing was mentioned as to Ankara’s threat to invade even deeper into Syria to displace and subjugate the Kurdish-led YPG and SDF, who are partners with the US occupation forces.
Kessab attacked again
On June 15, the terrorists in Idlib launched two rockets on the Christian Armenian village of Kessab, north of Latakia on the Turkish border, using Grad-type 122 mm rockets.
Not coincidentally, June 15 was the day in 2014 when the SAA liberated Kessab from the American-backed Free Syrian Army, and their Al Qaeda partners who had invaded Kessab on March 21, carried out a massacre of civilians and kidnapped 26 elderly people who were taken to Vikifly, Turkey where they were held against their will until for three months.
While the elderly infirm kidnap victims were held in Turkey, the terrorists coordinated with the US Ambassador to Turkey, Francis J. Riccardone, Jr. He and his wife visited the kidnap victims, but only asked them if any were US citizens. They replied in the negative, and he left them unaided even though they had begged him to allow them to go to Latakia, where their relatives were sheltering in a church.
The 2014 attack on Kessab was orchestrated by the US and Turkey working in partnership for regime change in Syria, which has failed. Kessab has never recovered from the 3-month occupation by the US-backed terrorists, during which all three churches were burned, and all homes and businesses destroyed or damaged. Most residents never returned and the scenic mountain village has been reduced to almost a ghost-town.
Steven Sahiounie is a two-time award-winning journalist