Since the beginning of the month of June, the liberated areas have witnessed an escalation of attacks by the Syrian regime and its Russian backer. The recent bombings were a clear violation of the ceasefire brokered by Turkey and Russia on March 5, 2020. According to Humanitarian Response Syria, the regime and Syria have committed 411 ceasefire breaches during the month of June which resulted in the death of 31 civilians, out of which 13 were children and 4 women, 2500 individuals were likewise displaced. Levant 24 wanted to know the position of the factions in Idlib regarding the recent escalation. We present you with the following interview with Emad al-Din al-Khatib, who is a military commander in Fathul Mubeen operations room. This operations room consists of the major groups who are fighting against the Assad regime in the liberated areas like Hayat Tahrir Sham, the National Liberation Front, and Jaysh al-Izza.
Levant 24: Can you give us an overview of the status of the front lines?
Emad al-Din: Thanks to Allah, we have worked during the past period to prepare ourselves on all levels, including the front lines, which have received a great focus in terms of fortification and construction. Also, we have prepared our front lines very well in sight of any Russian-backed militia attack. We have observed several infiltration attempts by the regime on our front lines, they were successfully repelled thanks to Allah.
Levant 24: When did the recent escalation of shelling on the Jabal al-Zawiya area begin?
Emad al-Din: The militias on the front lines did not abide by the de-escalation agreement, as the latest escalation in the liberated areas in general and Jabal al-Zawiya, in particular, began about a month ago.
Levant 24: What are the areas that are being targeted exactly? Front-lines or residential areas?
Emad al-Din: There have been reports of an increase in civilian deaths and injuries. The criminal enemy does not differentiate between military and civilian areas. They are targeting all movements in areas close to the fronts, whether they be military or civilian. A large number of civilian martyrs, including entire families, have fallen victim to the barbaric bombing.
Levant 24: What are the motives and reasons behind these attacks by the regime and Russia?
Emad al-Din: Through these attacks, the criminal regime and its Russian allies seek to weaken the morale of the Mujahideen and the civilians, they likewise seek to destroy the Salvation Government’s public infrastructure. Today, the liberated areas are enjoying an economic renaissance and a great urban movement. On the other hand, the regime areas suffer from severe economic collapse and siege.
Levant 24: What is the approach of the factions in the liberated areas regarding these violations
Emad al-Din: The Mujahideen factions responded to these violations by targeting regime front-line positions. The bombing also targeted some military positions deep inside the regime territories, such as the Jurin camp and others.
Levant 24: Was there artillery shelling on the Turkish military posts during this new escalation?
Emad al-Din: Turkish military posts were targeted several times, and the bombing resulted in wounded Turkish soldiers in some of their targeted points in Blanta, Kafr Lata, Qastun, and Kansafra.
Levant 24: There was a Russian ceasefire agreement while this new escalation started, can you comment on that?
Emad al-Din: The Russians, as we are used to, do not abide by any agreement, but rather move according to their interests and plans, trying to apply pressure on the Mujahideen before the upcoming Astana conference.
Levant 24: What are your expectations about these new developments? Is there any speculation that this will eventually lead to a new fight?
Emad al-Din: All possibilities are on the table, as I mentioned, the regime and Russia move according to their interests, and sometimes the regime resorts to military confrontation to escape its reality which is difficult to change. It is also known that the regime, before its campaigns on the ground, carries out random bombing campaigns to displace the people.
Levant 24: Are the factions within the liberated areas ready for a possibly looming battle?
Emad al-Din: The military factions, since the end of the last campaign in March of last year, have taken several steps to improve combat readiness, the most important one among them is the formation of the Military Council that commands the military forces and to avoid falling into the issues that occurred in previous campaigns. Also, they undertook an extensive fortification effort on all fronts and re-organized their military formations. The military operations room frequently raises the readiness of its sectors, and if there is any movement by the criminal regime, the military factions will be expecting them vigilantly, Allah willing.
Levant 24: Why Jabal al-Zawiya?
Emad al-Din: Jabal al-Zawiya is the first and strongest line of defense for the liberated areas, in addition to being south of the M4 international road, which the regime sought to control in the last campaign, but was unable to. The regime still strives to achieve its interim goals by controlling international roads, this will only be possible by controlling Jabal al-Zawiya, and here lies its importance for the regime.