Tensions between the United States and Russia are growing in northeastern Syria. On February 19, a video appeared online showing how an armored vehicle of the U.S. military was pushing a vehicle of the Russian Military Police off a road. The US move endangered a civilian standing near the road. If he had not run away in time, he would have been killed by the vehicle. The incident reportedly took place to the east of the city of al-Qamishli in the northern al-Hasakah countryside.
Russian air defense forces repelled a drone and missile attack on the Hmeimim airbase in the province of Latakia. Pro-government sources reported that the attack was carried out from the southern part of the Idlib de-escalation zone, where militants are still present.
On February 19, Turkish Sultan-in-Chief Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that the Turkish military has finished preparations for an operation against the Syrian Army in Greater Idlib, and its start is inevitable because Syrian troops are not planning to withdraw from the recently liberated areas. On the same day, Turkey continued deployment of additional troops and equipment to the region, as well as directly to the frontline. The frontline areas where the Turkish military presence is especially strong is the eastern countryside of Idlib city and the town of Atarib. Turkish media outlets are enthusiastically drawing maps of a possible Turkish aggression.
Pro-Turkish sources claim that the operation in Idlib will not only help to rescue supposed civilians from the regime offensive, but to separate the so-called moderate opposition from terrorists. According to these claims, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Turkistan Islamic Party and other al-Qaeda-linked groups, which make up over 80% of Idlib militants, will be disbanded. It would be interesting to see how Ankara would go about disbanding and disarming the forces that it has been supplying with weapons and supporting so much. Do Turkish media outlets really expect their audience to believe that from one moment to the next tens of thousands of battle-hardened al-Qaeda members are going to abandon their ideology and become florists or Instagram bloggers?