The Russian military was conducting a joint patrol with Turkish forces along the Aleppo-Latakia Highway (M-4 Highway) in Idlib province, during the early morning hours of Tuesday, when it was attacked by militants.
The Turkish or Russian Defense Ministries did not report any casualties.
This is the 26th joint patrol that has been conducted in northwest Syria by Turkish and Russian forces since they came to an agreement earlier this spring.
“A vehicle in the convoy has been slightly damaged due to the explosion that took place during the 26th joint ground patrol on the M4 highway in Idlib within the scope of the March 5 agreement between Turkey and Russia,” the Turkish Defense Ministry released in a statement.
Turkish-led militias posted a photo of the Russian military convoy after it came under attack. The video shows one of the vehicles on top of a median along the Aleppo-Latakia Highway. Another video showed a damaged armored vehicle being towed away from the scene.
Turkey and Russia came to an agreement in early March to limit military operations in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province in an effort to halt the massive flow of Syrian refugees streaming to Turkey to avoid the fighting. Nearly one million people have been displaced from the region. Turkey already hosts more than 3.7 million refugees from Syria.
The agreement came despite the two countries backing opposing factions in the decade-long civil war.
As part of the agreement, the two sides have been conducting joint patrols on the strategic M4 highway that connects Syria’s east and west. They have also established a security corridor along the highway. Idlib has been the target of the Assad regime, which is backed by Russia, since last year. Because of the close proximity of Russian, Syrian, and Turkish soldiers, the situation nearly resulted in open conflict.
No one has claimed responsibility for the latest attack. Yet, it is believed to have been carried out by the opposition forces that are currently in control of the areas along the M4 Highway. Many of these forces have been openly protesting the presence of Russian troops in the area. They have attempted to block the highway on several occasions and have recently transitioned to IED attacks.
The 25th joint patrol conducted last week had become the target of an IED attack. A Turkish vehicle was damaged in that blast.
In July, three Russian and several Turkish soldiers were wounded in Idlib province when a joint military patrol was hit by an IED. The increase of attacks against the joint patrols caused the Russian government to temporarily suspend them.
Additionally, last Tuesday, a Russian major general was killed in eastern Syria’s Deir ez-Zor province after the convoy he was riding in hit an improvised explosive device (IED).
According to the state-owned news agency TASS, the major general’s convoy was hit by the IED as it was returning from what the Russian military said was a humanitarian mission. Two other Russian officers were wounded. The general was only identified as a “senior military advisor.” He died from his wounds after being evacuated, the ministry added.
On Monday, the Russians conducted another humanitarian mission in Latakia, which runs along the M4 highway. They distributed food packages to residents in need at a former school which is now a refugee center.