Turkish-backed forces take control of a section of the M4 highway
(Photo Credit : aNEWS)
The Cradle received exclusive information on 25 January concerning an inevitable multilateral military operation against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formerly known as the Nusra Front, to liberate parts of the international M4 highway in Syria, spearheaded by the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA), Turkiye, Russia, and the Syrian military.
The M4 international highway crosses five governorates in northern Syria, adjacent to the Syrian-Turkish border from Latakia, passing through Idlib, Aleppo, Raqqa, and Hasakah. The road connects the Latakia governorate with the Syrian-Iraqi Yarubiya crossing in the Hasakah governorate.
A Syrian source confirmed to The Cradle that the Syrian-Turkish-Russian joint security committee, which was formed after the meeting of the defense ministers in Moscow at the end of December 2022, discussed a mechanism to cooperate on the opening of the M4 international highway, which faces complex security issues.
However, according to the source, parts of the M4 road are currently under the control of HTS, particularly in the area of Kabani, in the northern countryside of Latakia, which constitutes a major security issue and obstacle for the plans to reopen the M4 corridor inside Idlib, and the Al-Ghab Plain area in the northern countryside of Hama.
The source also revealed that the joint committee worked to facilitate a mutual understanding with factions of the Turkish-backed SNA and transfer all points and crossings in the northern countryside of Idlib and Aleppo under its control; a move viewed as a message of Turkiye’s commitment to Damascus for the cooperation on the reopening of the highway.
However, HTS, which is a branch of Al-Qaeda, besieged the headquarters of the “Sultan Murad Division” and forced it to withdraw from it in the city of Afrin. Recent attacks by the armed group are considered a show of force against Turkish and Syrian reconciliation efforts spearheaded by Moscow.
Extremist factions have increased their attacks against Syrian Army positions in recent weeks, particularly those who have received backing from Turkiye, to protest the potential reconciliation that is in the works between Ankara and Damascus.
This is reinforced by the fact that Syria’s armed opposition, particularly HTS, has expressed grave disapproval and a major sense of betrayal by Turkiye’s recent diplomatic approach with Syria.
On 2 January, HTS chief Abu Mohammed al-Julani, made a statement strongly rejecting the Russian-mediated negotiation efforts to rekindle Syrian-Turkish ties. In the statement, Julani emphasized the need to confront the rapprochement and called for a ‘united front’ among the opposition.