The Syrian Army launched a new ground offensive in southeastern Idlib on Thursday, capturing a number of villages in the process. It remains to be seen how far the new offensive plans to push into the embattled region.
Nearly three months after the battles that saw the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) take control of the city of Khan Sheikhoun, southern Idlib is witnessing renewed fighting on the ground.
The SAA launched a new ground offensive in the southeastern part of Idlib province on Thursday, taking control of a number of villages amidst on-going heavy fighting. So far, it remains unclear what the goal of the SAA or the scope of its new offensive is. However, the events could trigger a new wave of displacement in the embattled region.
So far, the gains made by the SAA have been small, with the villages of Luwaybidah and Tal Khaznah, north of the town of Abu Dali. However, battles in the region are on-going. Activists have noted that Russian aircraft have been heavily involved in the new offensive, with these claims seemingly being substantiated by Russian press outlets which also indicated towards the involvement of the Russian Air Force.
The SAA has also significantly reinforced its positions around the Abu al-Duhur Airbase, with activists anticipating further offensives around northwestern Idlib and western Aleppo countrysides. Shelling around Aleppo City, in particular, has picked up significantly.
So far, the opposition to the SAA has not come from Hayy’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which controls much of the Greater Idlib region, but from another Opposition coalition, the Syrian National Army (SNA), which recently absorbed most of the other factions in the region. With the SAA and the SNA engaged in clashes in northern Syria as well, it remains to be seen if the Idlib offensive is a genuine push or merely an attempt force the SNA to split its troops and resources over these two locations.
Another possibility is that the SAA is trying to draw resources from Kabani in northern Latakia, which neighbours Idlib Province and continues to be targeted by artillery and airstrikes amidst repeated but failed attempts by the SAA to capture the village. Located on a strategic hilltop, Kabani represents the “entrance” to the city of Jisr al-Shugour and the SAA has spent considerable resources try to take the village.
Either way, the offensive represents a new wave of suffering for the people of Idlib who have already been chafing under a steady uptick of airstrikes. The areas southwest of the city of Ma’arat Nu’man in southern Idlib have already been heavily targeted, with the casualty count rising daily.