The Syrian Army and the National Defense Forces are amassing their troops and equipment near the town of Ayn Issa in northern Raqqah. This town, located near the crossroad of the M4 highway and the Sanliurfa-Raqqah road, has been the target of Turkish expansionist efforts for a long while. Nonetheless, the Turkish Army and its proxies failed to capture it during the active phase of their Operation Peace Spring on October 9-22, 2019. Since then, they have been drawing up plans on how to push back the Syrian Army from Ayn Issa and to seize control of at least a part of the M4 highway there. Another such high priority target for Turkey is the town of Tell Tamr located on the road to Al-Hasakah.
Over the past week, the Turkish Army and Turkish-backed groups have significantly strengthened their strike force north of Ayn Issa. This move was made simultaneously with the start of Turkey’s Operation Claw-Tiger against rebels from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq. Syrian sources expect that Turkey may use the recent escalation of its war on the PKK to make another attempt to expand its control zone in northeastern Syria under some pretext or other.
ISIS cells continue their attacks on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. Late on June 17, an IED explosion destroyed a vehicle of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces near the village of Ruwaishid killing at least one person. Another ISIS attack reportedly took place near as Suwayr, when ISIS gunmen shelled an SDF checkpoint.
The military situation in southern Idlib remains relatively calm despite provocations from radical militant groups. Fa Ithbatu, a new al-Qaeda-linked coalition formed by Turkish-protected militants, is yet to take any real action against the Syrian Army despite loud statements.
Wa-Harid al-Mu’minin, which preceded Fa Ithbatu, claimed that it had carried out at least 547 attacks on government forces killing at least 950 government fighters over the past 20 months. However, these claims are hardly consistent with reality.
Meanwhile, Turkey has continued to send its proxies from groups deployed in Idlib and Afrin to Libya in order to support the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord. According to reports, the total number of militants deployed or trained for the deployment has reached 14,000. At least 400 of these have already died in fighting against the Libyan National Army. This factor would also undermine the offensive capabilities of Idlib groups in the event of a new confrontation with the Syrian Army.