It’s arguably some of the coveted prizes in Syria’s civil battle, and after eight years of combating, Syrian President Bashar Assad has received it again.
The Damascus-Aleppo freeway, or the M5, is understood to Syrians merely because the “Worldwide Street.” Reducing by way of all of Syria’s main cities, the motorway is essential to who controls the nation.
Assad step by step misplaced management over the motorway from 2012, when varied insurgent teams combating to topple him started seizing components of the nation.
Protests in opposition to his household’s rule had erupted the yr earlier than amid a wave of uprisings within the Arab world. This quickly become a civil battle, following a brutal authorities crackdown on dissent and the intervention of overseas powers within the rising battle.
Traditionally a bustling commerce route, one Syrian analyst, Taleb Ibrahim, known as the M5 “essentially the most fundamental and strategic freeway within the Center East.”
For the Turkey-backed rebels combating Assad, the motorway was a cornerstone in holding collectively their territory and protecting authorities forces at bay. Its loss marks a mortal blow for opposition fighters whose maintain on their final patches of floor in northwestern Syria is trying an increasing number of precarious.
Here is a take a look at the M5, and its place in Syria’s almost nine-year-long civil battle:
WHAT IS IT?
The M5 is a strategic freeway that begins in southern Syria, close to the border with Jordan, and runs all the best way north to the town of Aleppo close to the Turkish border.
The 450-kilometer (280-mile) freeway hyperlinks the nation’s 4 largest cities and inhabitants facilities: Damascus, Homs, Hama, and Aleppo, slicing by way of Idlib province.
Earlier than the battle, the M5 motorway served as an financial artery for Syria — primarily feeding the nation’s industrial hub of Aleppo. Specialists estimate the highway carried enterprise price $25 million a day on the top of Syria’s commerce growth earlier than the battle.
The freeway was a passageway for the crossing of wheat and cotton from the Syrian east and north to the remainder of the nation. It was additionally a highway used for the alternate of commodities with regional commerce companions like Jordan, Saudi Arabia and different Arab states, in addition to Turkey.
Regaining management over the freeway has been a prime precedence of the Assad authorities because the early days of the battle.
Its gradual and tortuous restoration, in some ways, traces the arc of the Syrian battle, which has killed almost half one million individuals and uprooted half the nation’s pre-war inhabitants.
The Syrian authorities started successful again segments of the freeway, beginning in 2014. That is when Russia joined the battle on the aspect of Assad, and primarily tipped it in his favor.
Cities and cities positioned alongside components of the freeway, together with within the Ghouta area and within the suburbs of Damascus, now lie in ruins after lengthy sieges and relentless bombardment compelled them into submission. The Russian-backed recapture of Aleppo in December 2016 was one other main game-changer.
END OF THE REBELS’ ROAD
Underneath a September 2018 settlement between Russia and Turkey, the M5 and M4 highways have been purported to be open for visitors, linking the federal government’s stronghold on the coast with Aleppo earlier than the top of that yr. That by no means occurred, as insurgents refused to maneuver away and permit joint Russian-Turkish patrols to guard the visitors there.
That ultimately led to the most recent authorities offensive in Idlib, the final rebel-held bastion within the nation.
Authorities troops backed by Russia carried out a number of main advances in Idlib, retaking cities and villages on each side of the motorway. The seize of Khan Sheikhoun was the primary main breakthrough, adopted by Maaret al-Numan and Saraqeb, positioned on the intersection between the M4 and M5.
This week, Syrian troops recaptured the final rebel-controlled part of the freeway round Khan al-Assal. That introduced the highway below the complete management of Assad’s forces for the primary time since 2012.
The victory assertion got here not from the Syrian authorities, however from Russia’s protection ministry. It mentioned in a press release Wednesday that “Syria’s most vital transport artery” had been “freed” from insurgent management.
WHY IT MATTERS
The freeway’s seize is probably essentially the most vital victory for Assad, whose forces have been making stable good points because the finish of 2015 with the assistance of Russian airstrikes and Iran-backed fighters.
Ibrahim, the political analyst, mentioned the freeway is so very important as a result of it hyperlinks the nation’s two powerhouses — the capital of Damascus with the buying and selling hub of Aleppo.
“In different phrases it hyperlinks Syria’s political capital with its financial capital,” he mentioned. It additionally hyperlinks up with the M4 freeway on the Saraqeb knot, opening up visitors to the federal government’s coastal stronghold of Latakia and the port.
Preventing continues in areas close to the freeway, and far of Idlib province stays in insurgent palms.
However the M5’s seizure goes a protracted option to re-connect government-controlled areas, after that they had been severed from one another for years.