On December 14, at least five militants of al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the de-facto ruler of the northwestern Syrian region of Greater Idlib, were killed in a pinpoint artillery strike that was carried out by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA).
The army targeted the militants, who were gathered near the town of Maarbalit in the southern countryside of Idlib, with a Russian-made 2K25 Krasnopol guided artillery round.
The 2K25 Krasnopol, which is guided by a semi-active laser, can be fired by most 152 mm artillery guns. The advanced round has a range of 20 to 30 kilometers and can hit its targets, that can be illuminated from the ground or the air, with top accuracy.
The slain militants were identified as Abu Malik Hariji, Abu Hamza al-Shuhail, Abu al-Harith al-Shuhail, Abu Zubair Hasakah and Abu Huzaifa Kharitah. According to Syrian opposition sources, all five militants were members of an elite special force unit in HTS’ Zubayr ibn al-Awwam Brigade.
The pinpoint artillery strike was most likely a response to recent violations of the ceasefire in Greater Idlib by HTS and its allies.
According to the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria, which is tasked with monitoring the ceasefire in Greater Idlib, a Syrian soldier was killed in a recent attack by HTS on government-held areas in the western countryside of Aleppo.
The ceasefire in Greater Idlib, which was brokered by Russia and Turkey more than a year ago, is barely holding up. Despite all recent violations, the ceasefire will not likely collapse anytime soon as all sides are trying to avoid an all-out confrontation in the heavily populated region.