Russia Strikes Pro-Turkey Rebel Base in Syria, Killing Seven

Strike on rebels comes just days ahead of a new round of talks

Russian warplanes attacked a rebel military base near Afrin, in northern Syria. The base was held by rebels loyal to the Turkish military. Seven rebels were killed, 13 others were wounded. Reports said the toll is expected to rise, as bodies are still being recovered.

Such strikes are unusual, and this is believed to be a matter of timing. Important talks on northern Syria will be held between Turkey, Russia, and Iran, this week.

Earlier last week, Turkey sent a number of troops across the border into Syria, which was seen as a “message” to Russia and Iran ahead of the talks. Russia’s strikes are likely similarly an attempt to frame the matter ahead of the talks.

The nations had a ceasefire in northern Syria, meant to hold out Idlib as a deconfliction zone between Syria’s military and remnant rebels. The process fell apart, however, when al-Qaeda seized a bunch of territory from rival rebels, then lost it in fights with the government, leaving the government in control of some valuable areas and Turkey’s rebels with less and less to work with.

Turkey likely hopes that they can restore the promise of stability by recovering some lost territory, and sending troops threatening to take it outright. The Russian strikes, then, would be an indication they’re not going to be coerced on the matter.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of Antiwar.com.