Turkish military operation in Idlib Governorate

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Turkish military operation in Idlib Governorate
Part of the Turkish involvement in the Syrian civil war
Syria Idlib November 2020.svg
Turkish flags represent Turkish observation posts and other military installations as of 20 December 2020
Date7 October 2017[1] – present
(4 years, 2 weeks and 6 days)


  • Turkish Armed Forces establish 70-78 military bases and observation points as of October 2020.[2][3]
Syrian National Army
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham
Syrian Arab Republic
Anti-ceasefire Hayat Tahrir al-Sham factions
Units involved

Turkish Armed Forces

  • Kata'ib Khattab al-Shishani[6] (possibly Katibat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad)[7]
Turkey 20,000—30,000[8]
Casualties and losses
Turkey 78–92 killed (76–90 soldiers, 2 civilian contractors)[9][note 1]
SyriaHezbollah 197+ killed[10] 4 killed

The Turkish military operation in Idlib Governorate (Turkish: İdlib Harekâtı), code-named Idlib De-escalation Control Force activities[11] (Turkish: İdlib Gerginliği Azaltma Kontrol Gücü faaliyetleri) by Turkey, is an operation by the Turkish Armed Forces which started in October 2017, following the earlier Operation Euphrates Shield. It is the third cross-border operation by the Turkish military, following Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Shah Euphrates.


The operation was launched following the 2017 Astana agreement and subsequent Sochi agreement between Turkey, Russia and Iran. Among other things, the two agreements contained provisions for the Turkish Armed Forces to set up and maintain 12 observation posts within rebel-held territories in the Idlib Governorate.[12]


Map of the original 12 Turkish observation posts as per the Astana agreement, in rebel territory, per the contemporary front lines on 17 September 2018.
  Syrian Army control
  Tahrir al-Sham and allies control
  National Front for Liberation and allies control
  Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army control


The Turkish Armed Forces set up their first observation outposts in Idlib in October 2017.[13] Following their deployment, there were reports of minor clashes with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militants.[14]


In February, the Turkish military observation outposts were expanded into northern and southeastern Idlib Governorate.[15][16] On 6 February, a Turkish observation was attacked by rockets and mortars, killing a Turkish soldier and wounding five others.[17]

On 22 May, the Turkish army established its twelfth and last military observation post in Idlib province.[18]

Idlib demilitarization[edit]

On 15 September 2018, the Turkish observation posts were made an official part of the 2018 Idlib demilitarization agreement.[19]


Northwestern Syria offensive (April–August 2019)[edit]

Following the start of the 2019 Northwestern Syria offensive, Turkish observation posts exchanged artillery fire with Syrian Army units multiple times.

In August 2019, the Turkish Armed Forces constructed an unofficial 13th observation post at Maar Hattat, 10 kilometers south of Ma'arrat al-Nu'man.[20][21][22]

In late August 2019, the Turkish observation post at Morek was fully encircled by the Syrian Army after it captured a rebel pocket in the region.[23] The Turkish government announced that it would not move or dismantle the post.[24]

Northwestern Syria offensive (December 2019–March 2020)[edit]

In late December 2019, the Turkish observation post near Sarman was encircled by the Syrian Army during the course of its Autumn offensive. Turkey has stated that it would not evacuate the post.[25]


On 29 January 2020, the Syrian Army encircled the Turkish observation post at Rashidin in the western outskirts of Aleppo after pushing back rebel forces from the area.[26]

On 30 January 2020, following the Syrian Army's capture of Ma'arrat al-Nu'man, the Turkish Army set up two more observation posts - just South and North of the town of Saraqib. It then established a third post to the east of the town on 1 February.[27][28]

On 1 February 2020, the Syrian military encircled the Turkish observation post at Maar Hattat,[29] which was built following the Syrian Army's capture of Khan Shaykhun in the summer of 2019.[30]

On 3 February 2020, Syrian Army shelling killed seven Turkish soldiers and one civilian contractor. Seven soldiers were also wounded. The Turkish Army retaliated by targeting Syrian Army positions with artillery and howitzer fire, resulting in 13 dead.[31][32][33][34]

On 5 February, the Syrian Army captured the village of Tell Touqan and thus encircled the Turkish observation post located there. It was not immediately made clear whether or not the post was placed under siege.[35]

On 6 February, the Turkish Armed Forces established a new outpost at Taftanaz Military Airbase.[36] It was reportedly targeted by the Syrian Air Force just hours after its establishment.[37] The Syrian Army completely encircled the town of Saraqib, which hosts four unofficial TAF military installations.[38]

On 7 February, the Turkish Armed Forces created a new military post east of Idlib City, just west of Saraqib.[39]

On 8 February, the Turkish Armed Forces established yet another military post, this time located in the Al-Mastumah area between Idlib City and Ariha.[40] A day after the Syrian Army began encircling the Turkish observation post at Al-Eiss,[41] it managed to capture both the town and its corresponding hill after the rebel forces that previously controlled it withdrew following a three-pronged envelopment by government forces.[42]

On 10 February, five or six Turkish soldiers were killed and another seven were wounded due to artillery fire from the Syrian Armed Forces.[43]

On 14 February, the Turkish army set up a base at Deir Sunbul village.[44]

On 15 February, the Turkish army established two new military posts near Darat Izza.[45]

On 16 February, the Syrian Army shelled the Turkish military post at Shekh Aqil, reportedly injuring many Turkish soldiers.[46]

On 17 February, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the Turkish military had established several more military posts, bringing the total number of official and unofficial Turkish military installations in Idlib up to 35.[47]

On 20 February, 2 Turkish soldiers died and 5 were reported wounded while they were assaulting, along with their proxies, the town of Al-Nayrab.[48]

On 26 February, 2 Turkish troops were killed and several others were reported wounded following a Syrian airstrike in Idlib province.[49] The Syrian Army captured Deir Sunbul,[50][51] besieging the nearby Turkish observation post stationed nearby in an area called Sheir Maghar.[52]

Operation Spring Shield[edit]

On 27 February, at least 33 Turkish soldiers were killed by Syrian or Russian airstrikes.[53] Rebel forces advanced on Saraqeb under the cover of Turkish missile fire, thus managing to recapture the town and lift the siege imposed on three of the four surrounding Turkish observation posts - to the north, west and south of the town. The eastern observation post remained surrounded by government forces.[54][50]

On 28 February, one Turkish soldier died and six more were wounded in Syrian air and artillery strikes in Idlib.[55]

Between 28 February and 6 March at least 165 Syrian soldiers and militiamen loyal to them were killed by Turkish Armed Forces in retaliation to Balyun airstrikes that killed at least 34 Turkish soldiers.[56]

Ceasefire (March 2020–present)[edit]

On 18 March, Turkish troops entered the de-escalation zone to reopen the M4 highway previously blocked by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and jihadist factions.[57]

On April 26, Turkish forces killed 4 fighters of Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham in Idlib.[58]

On 5 May, Syrian forces destroyed a Turkish bulldozer with a missile in Al-Dweir checkpoint north of Saraqeb. A second bulldozer sent to retrieve the first was in turn destroyed by another missile, killing and wounding the drivers.[59]

On 27 May, the Turkish Ministry of Defense announced the death of a Turkish soldier by a explosion in the Aleppo-Latakia Highway in northwestern Idlib.[60] A convoy of Turkish military vehicles and opposition factions was targeted by a IED, Turkish helicopters evacuated the wounded to Al-Rayhaniyyah.[61]

On 9 September, the Turkish Armed forces said that Brigadier General Sezgin Erdoğan died while on duty on Idlib, Syria. According to Turkish officials, Sezgin Erdoğan died in a hospital after falling ill.[62]

On 19 October 2020, Turkey withdrew its military presence from its base at Morek, Hama Governorate.[63]

List of observation posts[edit]

The following is a non-exhaustive list of observation posts and other military installations of the Turkish Armed Forces in Idlib:[2][64][65][66]

Colour key
  Official observation posts
  Unofficial observation posts
  Observation posts that Turkey has withdrawn from


Within Syria[edit]

  • Syria Syrian government: An unnamed source at Syria's Foreign Ministry said, "The Turkish regime must abide by what was agreed in Astana."[67][68]
  • Army of Revolutionaries: Ahmed Sultan, commander of the Army of Revolutionaries, accused Turkey of selling Idlib to the Syrian regime, Iran and Russia and called upon the people of Idlib to resist the planned Turkish, Iranian, and Russian intervention in Idlib.[69]

International reactions[edit]

  •  Russia: The head of the Russian delegation for the Astana talks, Alexander Lavrentyev, said that Russia was ready to act as a mediator between the Syrian government and Turkey regarding the situation in Idlib.[70]

Supranational reactions[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Presented Turkish losses during the operation in Idlib Governorate do not include initial claims of 50–100 dead in the February 2020 Balyun airstrikes.[1][2][3][4] Instead, they include 34 soldiers killed in the airstrike confirmed by Turkey.[5]


  1. ^ "First Turkish military convoy enters Syria's Idlib". 7 October 2017 – via Reuters.
  2. ^ a b "في إطار سعيها لرصد منطقة معرة النعمان جنوبي إدلب.. القوات التركية تنشئ نقطة عسكرية جديدة في جبل الزاوية". 9 November 2020. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  3. ^ "سحب نقاط المراقبة التركية المحاصرة شمالي سوريا .. السياق والأهداف والسيناريوهات المتوقعة". 22 October 2020.
  4. ^ a b Blane Wallace (31 March 2020). "Turkey's Military Buildup in Syria's Idlib Province". Institute for the Study of War.
  5. ^ Sebastien Roblin (2 March 2020). "Turkish Drones and Artillery Are Devastating Assad's Forces In Idlib Province-Here's Why". Forbes.
  6. ^ Khaled al-Khateb (10 February 2021). "Who benefits from attacks on Turkish forces in Idlib?". Al-Monitor.
  7. ^ Neil Hauer (16 September 2020). "Kata'ib Khattab al-Shishani: Fact or fiction?". Middle East Institute.
  8. ^ "James Jeffrey: The Russians realize that they are sinking into the "Syrian quagmire" and we will keep the pressure on them". fresh-syria.net/. Al-Asharq Al-Awsat. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  9. ^ 1 killed (6 Feb. 2018),[6] 1 killed (6 April 2019),[7] 1 killed (28 June 2019),[8] 58 killed (3 Feb.-5 March 2020; per Turkish President),[9][10] 72 killed (3 Feb.-5 March 2020; per SOHR),[11][12][13] 3 killed (18-19 March 2020),[14] 1 killed (27 May 2020),[15] 1 killed (5 June 2020),[16] 1 killed (12 June 2020),[17] 1 killed (6 Sep. 2020),[18] 1 killed (9 Sep. 2020),[19] 1 killed (3 Feb. 2021),[20] 1 killed (11 May 2021),[21] 3 killed (11 Sept. 2021) [22][23] 2 killed (15 Oct. 2021) [24] total of 76–90 killed
  10. ^ "Military escalation in "De-escalation zone" 51 days on: 1,200,000 people displaced…2,640 killed…276 areas fall to regime forces". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. March 5, 2020. Retrieved March 13, 2021.
  11. ^ "İdlib'ten acı haber". odatv.com.
  12. ^ Reuters (2020-02-01). "Erdogan Says Turkey May Launch Syria Offensive if Idlib Attacks Continue". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-02-01.
  13. ^ "İdlib'de ilk gözlem noktası oluşturuldu". www.trthaber.com.
  14. ^ 08 Oct 2017 09:24 GMT (2020-05-24). "Turkey forces clash with Tahrir al-Sham in Syria | Syria News". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  15. ^ "Turkish observation posts in Syria's Idlib". TRT. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  16. ^ "Turkish military says sets up sixth observation post in Syria's Idlib". Reuters. 15 February 2018. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  17. ^ "Turkish soldier killed in attack in Syria's Idlib province". Middle East Eye.
  18. ^ Idiz, Semih (May 22, 2018). "Turkish army's Idlib action 'riskiest cross-border operation' to date". Al-Monitor.
  19. ^ "Full text of Turkey-Russia memorandum on Idlib revealed". The National. Retrieved 2019-08-24.
  20. ^ "Tensions soar as Syrian government strikes Turkish military convoy in Idlib". Middle East Eye. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  21. ^ Ergin, Sedat (26 December 2019). "Idlib dominated the agenda again". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  22. ^ "Syria regime forces surround Turkish army post in Idlib |". The Arab Weekly. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  23. ^ "Syrian Regime Forces Surround Turkish Army Post". Asharq AL-awsat. Retrieved 2019-08-24.
  24. ^ "Syrian regime shouldn't play with fire: FM Çavuşoğlu - Turkey News". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  25. ^ "Turkey Says It Won't Evacuate NW Syria Observation Posts". The New York Times. Associated Press. 2019-12-29. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  26. ^ نت, الميادين (2020-01-29). "مراسل الميادين: الجيش السوري بات يسيطر نارياً على خان طومان بريف حلب". شبكة الميادين (in Arabic). Retrieved 2020-02-01.
  27. ^ "Turkey-Russia growing tension: Turkish forces install new military post in Kafr Amim encircling Saraqeb from three sides". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 1 February 2020.
  28. ^ "Turkish military sets 3rd observation point near Syria's Saraqib". DailySabah. February 2020. Retrieved 2020-02-01.
  30. ^ Mudiq, Qalaat Al (February 1, 2020). "#Syria: fresh photo shows #TSK evacuated the Obs. Post in Maar Hatat before arrival of pro-Assad forces. Position was built after capture of #KhanSheikhoun last Summer. Pic via @SchoenbornTrent. http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=35.570703&lon=36.654296&z=15&m … https://twitter.com/QalaatAlMudiq/status/1221853590345732096 …pic.twitter.com/z7FctERR7I". External link in |title= (help)
  31. ^ Syria war: Turkey will not let Syrian army advance in Idlib, says Erdogan
    UN: Northwest Syria fighting displaces over 500,000 in 2 months
    Turkey to keep military observation posts in Idlib, Syria
  32. ^ "8 Turkish personnel, 13 Syrian troops killed in north Syria". AP NEWS. February 3, 2020.
  33. ^ Frazer, Suzan (2020-02-03). "6 Turkish troops, 13 Syrian soldiers killed in north Syria". NBC Montana. Retrieved 2020-10-22.
  34. ^ McKernan, Bethan (February 3, 2020). "Turkish soldiers killed as battle for control of Idlib escalates". The Guardian.
  35. ^ "Regime forces enter the administrative border of southern rural Aleppo, and capture a village hosting Turkish military post east of Saraqeb". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  36. ^ "Turkish forces install new military post in Taftanaz military airbase". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  37. ^ "بعد ساعات من تثبيت القوات التركية نقطة بداخله.. طائرات النظام الحربية تستهدف مطار تفتناز العسكري". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  38. ^ "Regime forces encircle Saraqeb completely, and dozens of opposition fighters are still inside". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  39. ^ "Turkish forces install new military post east of Idlib city". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 7 February 2020.
  40. ^ "Turkish forces set up new military post in "Tala'ea Al-Baath" Camp in Al-Mastumah". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 8 February 2020.
  41. ^ Desk, News (2020-02-07). "Syrian Army attempting to encircle Turkish military post at strategic hilltop in Aleppo". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 2020-02-08.
  42. ^ "بعد انسحاب المقاتلين منها.. قوات النظام تسيطر على بلدة العيس الاستراتيجية جنوب حلب في إطار عملية استكمال السيطرة على اتستراد دمشق – حلب الدولي". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (in Arabic). 8 February 2020.
  43. ^ Five Turkish troops killed in clashes with Syrian army"SON DAKİKA HABERİ: İdlib'de 5 asker şehit". NTV (in Turkish). 10 February 2020.
  44. ^ "Turkish forces set up new military post in 111th regiment, west of Aleppo". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 15 February 2020.
  45. ^ Desk, News (2020-02-15). "Turkish military establishes new posts in west Aleppo to stop Syrian Army advance". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 2020-02-15.
  46. ^ "Regime forces shell Turkish military post leaving many soldiers injured". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 16 February 2020.
  47. ^ "القوات التركية تتمركز في مواقع جديدة بمحافظة إدلب رافعة تعداد نقاطها ضمن منطقة "بوتين – أردوغان" إلى 35". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (in Arabic). 17 February 2020.
  48. ^ "Nearly 45 regime and Turkish soldiers and rebels killed in shelling and violent battles on Al-Nayrab frontline, east of Idlib". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 21 February 2020.
  49. ^ "Two Turkish troops killed as state media intensifies attack on Russia". Ahval News. 27 February 2020. Retrieved 27 February 2020.
  50. ^ a b "Turkish forces break siege imposed on military posts in Saraqeb, while regime forces advance further into Sahl Al-Ghab". SOHR. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  51. ^ "The army liberates 15 villages from terrorism in idleb southern countryside". Syrian Arab News Agency. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  52. ^ "Activists say Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters retook key Idlib town". The Japan Times Online. 2020-02-28. ISSN 0447-5763. Retrieved 2020-02-28.
  53. ^ Gall, Carlotta (27 Feb 2020). "Airstrike Hits Turkish Forces in Syria, Raising Fears of Escalation". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 Feb 2020.
  54. ^ "Turkish artillery paves the way for the factions to advance further into areas surrounding Saraqeb". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  55. ^ "45 regime forces killed by bombing drones and war planes and Turkish artillery shelling ... and surface-to-surface missiles targeting the countryside of Aleppo".
  56. ^ https://www.syriahr.com/en/156424/
  57. ^ "Under HTS's supervision, Turkish forces set up guard posts and conduct patrol on their own". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 19 March 2020. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  58. ^ https://www.syriahr.com/en/161766/
  59. ^ "Hostilities | Regime forces attack Turkish bulldozer in rural Idlib, leaving casualties". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  60. ^ "Turkey announces death of soldier after attack in western Idlib". 27 May 2020.
  61. ^ "IED attack | Explosions hit Turkish military convoy on M4, leaving many injured".
  62. ^ "Turkish general dies while on duty in Syria's Idlib". 10 September 2020.
  63. ^ "Turkey withdraws from base in northwest Syria, sources say". Reuters. 19 October 2020.
  64. ^ Gündemi, Suriye (2018-05-16). "Turkish Army Established its 12th Observation Post in İdlib". Suriye Gündemi. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  65. ^ "Turkish observation posts in Syria's Idlib". TRT World. 6 February 2018.
  66. ^ "Turkey 'reinforces posts in Syria's Idlib'". 2018-09-13. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  67. ^ "Syria demands Turkey immediately withdraw troops – News – DW – 14.10.2017". DW.COM.
  68. ^ "Syria demands 'immediate' withdrawal of Turkish troops". Hürriyet Daily News.
  69. ^ "أبو عراج: تركيا باعت إدلب أيضاً للنظام السوري وداعميه - ANHA". www.hawarnews.com. Archived from the original on 2018-01-23. Retrieved 2017-11-03.
  70. ^ "Russia ready to mediate talks between Damascus, Ankara on Idlib". 30 October 2017.
  71. ^ "Final de-escalation zones agreed on in Astana". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 15 September 2017.