According to Arab observers, March 28 saw another sizeable military convoy comprising more than 100 car trailers, dozens of armored vehicles and vehicles with military personnel, cross the Kfar Lusin border checkpoint in Idlib province from the Turkish province of Hatay. The column was noted to be carrying launchers of the Hawk anti-aircraft missile system, which is in service with the Turkish army.
The medium-range Hawk air defense system (USA) developed in the late 1950s is operated by air defense forces of several dozen states. Having undergone a deep modernization, it continues to pose a serious threat to aircraft operations. It is capable of shooting down air targets at altitudes of up to 18 km and 25 to 40 km ranges.
According to independent regional military analysts, the current number of Turkish military personnel in the provinces of Idlib, Latakia and Aleppo accounts for over 10 thousand people. There are more than 300 tanks, armored personnel carriers and armored vehicles, about 150 field artillery pieces and multiple rocket launchers located at about 55 military facilities. Several dozen command and control and communication centers have been deployed in the area.
Interestingly enough, most of the Turkish garrisons are in close proximity to or inside the strongholds of illegal armed Syrian opposition groups.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar reiterated his intention not to withdraw Turkish troops from Idlib at any price and get ready for a major military operation against the Kurdish People's Protection Units.
It should be noted that the Kurdish formations declared "terrorist" in Turkey are stationed across a vast territory east of the Euphrates River bank, being simply inaccessible to the Turkish group for the time being. From a military perspective, concentrating troops to start military operations at such a great distance from the enemy's front lines is pointless...
In turn, the Turkish leadership, following the March 5 talks in Moscow, did not take any steps to force the gangs to open part of the Aleppo-Latakia highway and did not even "punish" the militants for their armed provocations, including against the Turkish military.
According to information leaked to open sources, an agreement has been reached between Turkey and leaders of illegal armed groups on the formation of five joint brigades with an overall number of over 30 thousand people. Each brigade will consist of 3 thousand people (1500 Turks and 1500 militants). Three formations will be recruited from among the militants of the National Front for the Liberation of Syria, the leading position in which is occupied by the former Jabhat al-Nusra (an Islamic terrorist group banned in Russia and Turkey). Direction of the units will be exercised jointly. The other two brigades will be recruited from among the fugitives of the former Free Syrian Army to be commanded by Turkish officers.
At the same time, March 31, 2020 is the deadline for the Russian ultimatum to the gangs that refused to vacate the corridor along the Aleppo-Latakia highway in Idlib province stipulated in the Russian-Turkish agreements. The Russian armed forces command has previously stated that in default of the requirement, the Syrian government army (with Russia's active military support) is entitled to resume warfare against the militants "regardless of their military and political affiliation."
It should be emphasized that the deployment of Turkish combat air defense assets in the Idlib de-escalation zone poses a certain hazard to efforts by the aviation, primarily the Syrian air force: the Turks will unlikely dare to use anti-aircraft weapons against Russian combat aircraft. However, the Turkish command definitely intends to counteract the Syrian air force, which may lead to a sharp aggravation in the region.
In turn, the Americans are in for a bit of excitement east of the Euphrates River bank: exploiting Hulusi Akar's threatening statements, the Pentagon sent a huge (some 150 vehicles) column with weapons, ammunition and other military equipment from Iraqi Kurdistan to the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces. Thus Washington demonstrated Ankara its determination to maintain allied relations with the Syrian Kurds and to exclude any of the Turks' serious attempts to establish control outside their designated zone.