On November 7, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the former branch of al-Qaeda in Syria, announced that its “elite force” had held military drills in the western countryside of Idlib. Photos released by the radical group shows that battle tanks and other heavy weapons participated in the drills.
According to the Syrian pro-opposition news outlet Enab Baladi, the drills were held in the area of Jabal Zawiya, which is not covered by the demilitarized zone around the governorate of Idlib. The zone was established under the Russian-Turkish deconfliction agreement.
The drills were a clear threat to the Damascus government and its allies. However, local observers believe that HTS is way weaker than government forces, which have defeated the radical group in every single battle since the beginning of the Russian military campaign in Syria in 2015.
Earlier this year, HTS suffered from a humiliating defeat, when the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies captured dozens of villages in southeastern Idlib and southwestern Aleppo. Then, the radical group failed to recapture any position and lost hundreds of its fighters and loads of equipment.
Another large-scale battle with the SAA will likely destroy most of HTS’ assets leaving the radical group with fa ew isolated cells, similar to the sitaution, which is now faced by ISIS.
Photos of HTS’ drills: