Idlib operation: Bells ring for end of terrorism in Syria

Alwaght – The operation to take back the Syrian province of Idlib from militant and terrorist groups continues with heavy fire as it opened last week with swift advances of the Syrian government’s forces and their allies against terrorists in Idlib and Hama provinces’ outskirts. Media reports suggest that the militant groups are retreating front by front as they sustain heavy blows.

The Syrian army, backed by heavy shelling of its artillery and the Russian fighter jets bombings, has so far managed to infiltrate the reinforcements of the terrorists in such areas as Kafar Nabudah, Qal’at Al-Madhiq, and Tel Uthman towns, as well as Al-Janabrah village.

According to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), the army also targeted the movement of the terrorists between Idlib and Hama, inflicting heavy losses on them in the two villages of Habash and Kafar Sajnah. The army also repelled heavy attacks launched on Friday by Al-Nusra Front, a terrorist organization aligned with Al-Qaeda. According to Al-Mayadeen, a Lebanese broadcaster, the coordination units in the Syrian armed forces confirmed that in a counterattack on Tahrir Al-Sham group’s assault in Kafar Nabudah in Hama’s northern outskirts, at least 40 terrorist fighters were killed. Kafar Nabudah is a strategic town 50 kilometers northwest of Hama. It gets its significance from being the first defense line of Idlib province. In fact, Kafar Nabudah and Qal’at Al-Madhiq function like the route to the depth of southern outskirts of Idlib.

It seems that the Syrian government is seeking a preemptive campaign to avoid the spread of the clashes to Hama and Latakia for the final aim of protecting the Nubul and Zahra towns in Aleppo outskirts from possible attacks.

The decisive campaign is led by the prominent General Suhail al-Hasan who is said to have never lost an operation tasked with during the 9 years of the anti-terror war. The general is of special respect among the Syrian forces and his presence in the endgame will be spiritually important for the Syrian forces.

Russia faces off operation opponents at UNSC

As the Syrian army makes its way in the terrorist-held regions, some Arab and Western countries tried to set up obstacles. They pushed toward a United Nations Security Council’s resolution to force Damascus to halt its operation to prevent a big loss of the foreign-backed terrorists. The motion faced Russia’s objection. Anti-Syrian parties stopped short of a non-binding resolution at the end of the road. In the resolution, 12 out of 15 UNSC members highlighted the need for the involved parties to show commitment to the humanitarian principles and the terms of a ceasefire deal signed last year.

The resolution was pushed by Germany, Belgium, and Kuwait. After the UNSC meeting, Russia  Today cited Russia’s deputy envoy to the UN Vladimir Safronkov as saying that that Moscow prevented passing a UN resolution that was aimed to paint the situation in Idlib as critical. Safronkov added that the Western countries should admit that all armed groups operating in the battlefields under various names were al-Nusra-affiliated. He also called for all sides to respect Syria’s national sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity “in action not in words.”

Turkey also came out as a critic of the operation. Hulusi Akar, Turkey’s defense minister, in a press conference said Ankara wanted an end to the anti-terrorist assault. He said “we expect Russia to take effective measures to stop the recapture campaign.” He called on the Syrian government’s forces to move back to the borders determined by the Astana ceasefire agreement.

The remarks by the Turkish official come while Turkey totally failed to realize its part of commitment to disarm Idlib-based terrorists according to the September 2018 accord reached between President Vladimir Putin of Russia and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Al-Nusra terrorists exploited the truce to dominate large parts of Idlib, a development ushered in deteriorated living conditions for the residents of the last major stronghold of terrorists in Syria. At the meeting, Erdogan vowed to force the militias out of Idlib and return the province’s governance to Syria’s central government.

On the other side, Russia is worried to see al-Nusra attacks and advances in Hama fronts. The group recently fired rockets on Khmeimim Airbase, Russia’s only air base in Syria. The rockets appear to have been provided to the terrorists by Turkey.

The war’s big challenges

The Syrian government and its allies, who over the past 9 years lonely faced a host of Western and Arab-bankrolled terrorist organizations in Syria, now have the heavy task of fighting the militants while saving lives of civilians.

The major land-holding armed group in Idlib is Tahrir Al-Sham that since 2017 managed to seize large tracts of territory in the province. Turkistan Islamic Party terrorist group is another faction, loyal to al-Qaeda, in Idlib. Jaysh Al-Badiyah and Jaysh Al-Malahem are others affiliated with al-Qaeda, though of not heavy weight on the ground. Jaysh Al-Malahem published a statement on January 11, 2018, declaring its alliance with Jaysh Al-Abadiyah in southern Idlib front.

ISIS holds towns and villages between Hama and Idlib, seized them from Tahrir fighters.

Other terrorist groups Damascus has to fight in Idlib include Ahrar Al-Sham, Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement, Jaysh Al-Ahrar, Faylaq Al-Sham, Jaysh Al-Iza, and some other small groups.

In addition to these challenges, the Syrian government may face false flag chemical attack propaganda. Some Arab and Western countries are highly likely to seek to stage a false chemical attack in Idlib and then blame President Bashar al-Assad for it. This serves an intention to block full obliteration of the terrorists and win of the Syrian forces in the important province.