The opening of the Saraqeb-Latakia road, known as the M4, is scheduled for this Sunday the 15th of March as established during the memorandum protocol signed in Moscow between the two presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan following the battle of Saraqeb.
The Turkish-Russian patrols are supposed to secure the M4 following a three-day meeting in Ankara between Russian and Turkish military to coordinate the joint patrols and to prevent any attacks from Jihadists. Many jihadists groups reject the Russian-Turkish deal and will likely shell the road or try to kidnap drivers. Everything depends on how decisive the Turkish army and its allies in the Idlib area will be in adhering to the ceasefire, and how convincing Russia’s response will be if the ceasefire is violated.
The Aleppo-Damascus road, known as the M5, was liberated by military force (Russia, the Syrian army and its allies) and is now open for civilians. However, the Syrian army and its allies still use the safer Aleppo-Ithriya-Khanaser road. The battle of Saraqeb forced the Moscow deal and revived the 2018 Astana agreement that was ignored by Turkey for a year and a half.
Jihadists groups including Ansar al-Tawheed wal-Jihad, Ansar al-Islam, Ansar al-Deen, Kavkaz brigade and Hurras al-Deen (al-Qaeda in Bilad al-Sham) have decided to oppose the Russian-Turkish agreement and attack the joint patrol along the M4. These groups, along with Abu Imara, Tansiqiyat a-Jihad and Muhajereen brigade are sworn to oppose Turkey and Russia in rural Idlib. Northwestern Syria has been divided between two camps: one camp under Turkey’s control, acknowledging the Moscow-Astana agreement, and another rejecting it.
This week, a Russian military delegation visited Ankara to discuss with Turkish army leadership procedures to control the M4. Armed drones and Russian Air Force will be ready to intervene, along with Special Forces, to hit any attempt to oppose joint Russian-Turkish control of the M4 and to deal with any presence of jihadists along the road.
Al-Qaeda in Syria (Hurras al-Deen) issued audio of its Emir Hammam al-Suri (Samir Hijazi), one of the notorious Emirs of al-Qaeda who fought in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, asking Syrian and other jihadists to “persist” in their position, thereby rejecting withdrawal from the M4.