On October 22 the Russian Air Force launched strikes against three jihadist targets in Syria, destroyed a training camp and a munitions depot belonging to the Jabhat Al Nusra terror group – a former Al Qaeda affiliate. This followed multiple artillery attacks by the militants against the positions of Syrian government forces. Deputy chief of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Parties in Syria Vadim Kulit stated regarding the attack: “With an aim of preventing armed provocations by terrorists, the Russian aerospace forces delivered three airstrikes on terrorists’ targets in the Idlib governorate. A munitions depot, a training camp, and a stronghold of illegal armed groups were destroyed.” Almost all jihadists in Syria are based in the northwestern Idlib governate straddling the Turkish border, with militants there receiving the protection of the Turkish military, arms and supplies, and in many cases backing from Turkish special forces embedded within their ranks. A previous joint attempt to eliminate or expel terrorist forces based there in early 2020 led by the Syrian government with Russian and Hezbollah support was prevented by a massive Turkish military intervention on Syrian soil and major attacks on Syrian forces.
The strike on Al Nusra terror camps comes less than a week after reports from Russian government forces to the effect that: “Terrorist groups active in the Idlib de-escalation zone are plotting attacks on the civilian population, areas where Russian and Syrian forces are deployed, as well as civilian infrastructure facilities with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles and modified medium-range multiple launch rocket systems.” It was assured at the time that Russian and Syrian forces would take necessary preemptive measures. This followed predictions that Turkey and multiple jihadist groups under its influence and protection in northern Syria would seek to exploit the diversion of Syrian and allied Iranian and Hezbollah military attentions southwards towards Israel to make military gains in northern Syria. Turkish backed militants in Idlib from Al Nusra and the Turkistan Islamic Party were reported in November 2022 to have been planning a major assault on Russia’s leading military facility in the Middle East Khmeimim Air Base, which was at the time hosting growing quantities of strategic assets aimed at NATO’s southern flank. The presence of tens of thousands of Turkish backed militants in Idlib not only places further pressure on Russian and Syrian forces in the region, but also imposes a major constraint on the ability of Syria, Iran and Hezbollah to respond to the recent rise in tensions with Israel