Syria, whose large parts were once infested by the foreign-backed militancy and Takfiri terrorism, has managed to liberate almost all of its militant-held cities, towns and villages from the clutches of an array of militant outfits and Takfiri terrorist groups during the past few years.
However, large parts of the Idlib province are still under the grips of dozens of militant and Takfiri terrorist groups, most of which are those that chose the volatile region to hide and concentrate after suffering defeat against government troops elsewhere in the Arab country, Presstv Reported.
Being a neighbor of Syria to the north, Turkey has for the past years expressed its strong opposition to the legitimate government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and launched a cross-border offensive into the Arab country’s northwest, mostly Idlib and portions of neighboring Aleppo province, under the pretext of clearing a narrow border area, known as the so-called safe zone, from the presence of “anti-Ankara” Kurdish militants.
Syria and Russia, Syria’s close ally in fighting against militants and terrorists, have condemned Turkey’s cross-border offensive. Back in 2018, Moscow and Ankara reached an Iran-brokered deal, known as the Sochi agreement, to set up a de-militarization zone mainly situated in northern Idlib.
However, Turkey is supporting several armed militants, who have been launching attacks on army and civilian targets from the buffer zone, prompting Damascus to launch an ongoing full-scale offensive last year in a bid to flush out all militant and terrorist groups.
Press TV has just obtained credible information from sources on the ground that the Turkish government is generously offering various kinds of support to roughly 80,000 armed militants in their battles against Syrian government forces and allied fighters from popular defense groups.
The sources, requesting not to be named, said some 38,500 militants are operating under the banner of the so-called National Front for Liberation, which is composed of 15 factions, including the Sham Legion and Ahrar al-Sham outfits.
These militants are scattered in the northern countryside of the provinces of Hama and Latakia as well as the western, northern and southern countryside of Aleppo, and the eastern, northern and southern countryside of Idlib.
Furthermore, the al-Qaeda affiliated Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which is the dominant militant group in the province, is also among the militant groups backed by Ankara. It was formerly known as al-Nusra Front and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. Led by Abu Muhammad al-Julani, it consists of 18,000 militants, according to the data.
Ankara has reportedly provided the HTS with heavy weapons and that the CIA has facilitated the provision.
Turkey also supports the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA), whose 22,000 militants are present in the northeastern countryside of Aleppo. The group is commanded by Haitham al-Ofeisi.
Back in early October last year, the so-called National Front for Liberation joined the FSA and their merger was announced at a press conference in the southern Turkish city of Sanliurfa at the time.
The Turkish government calls all these militant groups the so-called armed opposition groups and distinguishes them with Takfiri terrorist groups like Daesh and the like. However, rebranding these militant groups does not alter their terrorist nature and their use of ordinary people as human shields against advancing army forces.
Furthermore, Ankara has even rebranded HTS, a Takfiri terrorist group, as a so-called armed opposition group.
The Turkish government not only continues to support these militant groups but has also boosted its military presence in Syria’s northwest recently to stop Syrian army troops, who have come under Turkey's artillery and rocket fire and airstrikes.
The Turkish military, with support from the FSA, launched two cross-border operations in northern Syria, namely “Euphrates Shield” in August 2016 and “Olive Branch” in January 2018 with the declared aim of eradicating the presence of Kurdish militants and Daesh terrorists near Turkey’s borders.