Following Russia’s move in increasing airstrikes on Sunday, Turkey sent reinforcements to the last opposition-held enclave in northwestern Syria.
Residents, as well as opposition and military sources, said that Russian jets bombed villages around the city of Afrin.
A network of plane spotters documented the killing of at least five fighters from a Turkey-backed faction as well as the injuring of 12 civilians while Russian jets dropped ordnance at high altitudes.
According to Major Youssef Hamoud, the spokesperson for the National Army, the Russian campaign began in Jabal al-Zawya in Idlib province and is spreading to areas in northern Aleppo province along the Turkish border.
The campaign is accompanied by shelling from Assad regime outposts aided by Iranian-backed militias.
The escalations coincide with a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin set to take place in Sochi on Wednesday. The two leaders are expected to discuss a deal reached last year that ended a Russian-led Assad regime offensive and allowed for a major deployment of Turkish troops in Idlib province.
On Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that progress in implementing the deal was slow. He further said the summit would discuss Ankara’s obligation to end militant presence.
In the last two weeks, Turkey solidified dozens of bases where thousands of troops are stationed. Military sources said a large Turkish military convoy with rocket launchers and tanks crossed into Syria overnight and was seen in the direction of Jabal al-Zawya. The Turkish military also deployed more troops on the M4 highway.
Hamoud added, “The Turkish army deployment is taking a combat posture with all the military bases reinforced and has poured in convoys whether of armored vehicles, fighters or equipment.”
Turkey aims to prevent any renewed assault to retake the region, capable of triggering a new refugee influx in a province that is home to over four million people.