AP Explains: Why Syria's M5 is Assad's highway to victory

AP Explains: Why Syria's M5 is Assad's highway to victory


Syrian President Bashar Assad has gained what’s perchance his most important strategic victory in the nine-year-fashioned Syrian civil battle: the recapture of the all-vital M5 motorway


ZEINA KARAM Connected Press

February 14, 2020, 6: 34 AM

5 min learn

BEIRUT — It is arguably one of many most coveted prizes inSyria’s civil battle, and after eight years of combating,Syrian President Bashar Assad has obtained it aid.

The Damascus-Aleppo motorway, or the M5, is principal to Syrians simply as the “Worldwide Road.” Reducing via all of Syria’s predominant cities, the motorway is key to who controls the nation.

Assad step by step lost withhold watch over over the motorway from 2012, when diverse rebellion groups combating to plunge him started seizing aspects of the nation.

Protests in opposition to his household’s rule had erupted the year earlier than amid a wave of uprisings in the Arab world. This soon modified into a civil battle, following a brutal government crackdown on dissent and the intervention of international powers in the rising battle.

Historically a bustling alternate route, one Syrian analyst, Taleb Ibrahim, known as the M5 “the most simple and strategic motorway in the Middle East.”

For the Turkey-backed rebels combating Assad, the motorway used to be a cornerstone in retaining collectively their territory and keeping government forces at bay. Its loss marks a mortal blow for opposition opponents whose keep it up their closing patches of ground in northwestern Syria is having a take into chronicle more and more precarious.

Here’s a take into chronicle on the M5, and or no longer it’s build in Syria’s nine-year-lengthy civil battle:


The M5 is a strategic motorway that starts in southern Syria, near the border with Jordan, and runs the total potential north to the metropolis of Aleppo near the Turkish border.

The 450-kilometer (280-mile) motorway links the nation’s four most fascinating cities and inhabitants products and companies: Damascus, Homs, Hama, and Aleppo, lowering via Idlib province.

Prior to the battle, the M5 motorway served as an economic artery for Syria — essentially feeding the nation’s industrial hub of Aleppo. Specialists estimate the road carried alternate price $25 million a day on the peak of Syria’s alternate enhance earlier than the battle.

The motorway used to be a passageway for the crossing of wheat and cotton from the Syrian east and north to the remaining of the nation. It used to be also a street aged for the replace of commodities with regional alternate partners admire Jordan, Saudi Arabia and diverse Arab states, moreover to Turkey.



Regaining withhold watch over over the motorway has been a top priority of the Assad government since the early days of the battle.

Its unhurried and tortuous recovery, in quite a lot of programs, traces the arc of the Syrian battle, which has killed practically half a million folks and uprooted half the nation’s pre-battle inhabitants.

The Syrian government started a success aid segments of the motorway, starting in 2014. That is when Russia joined the battle on the facet of Assad, and in actual fact tipped it in his prefer.

Towns and cities positioned alongside aspects of the motorway, including in the Ghouta build of dwelling and in 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 used to be any other predominant recreation-changer.



Below a September 2018 settlement between Russia and Turkey, the M5 and M4 highways have been speculated to be originate for web page traffic, linking the government’s stronghold on the stir with Aleppo earlier than the close of that year. That never came about, as insurgents refused to gallop away and enable joint Russian-Turkish patrols to present protection to the web page traffic there.

That finally ended in the latest government offensive in Idlib, the closing rebellion-held bastion in the nation.

Government troops backed by Russia implemented a lot of predominant advances in Idlib, retaking cities and villages on either facet of the motorway. The contrivance close of Khan Sheikhoun used to be the first predominant breakthrough, followed by Maaret al-Numan and Saraqeb, positioned on the intersection between the M4 and M5.

This week, Syrian troops recaptured the closing rebellion-managed part of the motorway spherical Khan al-Assal. That brought the road below the fat withhold watch over of Assad’s forces for the first time since 2012.

The victory allege came no longer from the Syrian government, nonetheless from Russia’s defense ministry. It acknowledged in a press beginning Wednesday that “Syria’s most important transport artery” had been “freed” from rebellion withhold watch over.



The motorway’s contrivance close is perchance the most important victory for Assad, whose forces have been making stable gains since the close of 2015 with the aid of Russian airstrikes and Iran-backed opponents.

Ibrahim, the political analyst, acknowledged the motorway is so vital since it links the nation’s two powerhouses — the capital of Damascus with the shopping and selling hub of Aleppo.

“In diverse phrases it links Syria’s political capital with its economic capital,” he acknowledged. It also links up with the M4 motorway on the Saraqeb knot, opening up web page traffic to the government’s coastal stronghold of Latakia and the port.

Battling continues in areas near the motorway, and much of Idlib province remains in rebellion hands.

But the M5’s seizure goes a lengthy potential to re-connect government-managed areas, after they had been severed from each diverse for years.


Connected Press author Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this file.

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