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The moment of reckoning in Syria’s Greater Idlib could be drawing near as rumors of an incoming ground operation abound.
The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies may kick off a ground operation in the northwestern region “at any minute.”
According to reports citing unnamed military source in the SAA, the al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the de-facto ruler of Greater Idlib, and its Turkish-backed allies have escalated their attacks in recent weeks.
In response to this increase in activity, Russia’s Aerospace Forces (VKS) ramped up their air campaign over the region. VKS warplanes reportedly destroyed more than 60 positions of HTS and killed more than 150 militants just in the days leading up to September 12th.
On the day the rumors of a ground attack began circulating in the media, VKS conducted a new air raid on HTS positions near the towns of Darat Izza and Sheikh Salman in the western Aleppo countryside and the town of Kansafra in the southern countryside of Idlib.
A potential ground operation could prove cataclysmic in Greater Idlib, as it would certainly involve the Turkish Armed Forces who operate more than 60 observation posts throughout the region.
Meanwhile, Turkey is involved in another escalation against the Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
Ankara has been bleeding forces over the last several days.
On September 12th, a soldier died of wounds he sustained as a result of the September 10 attack in Greater Idlib.
The attack was carried out by a little-known radical group called Saryat Ansar Abu Baker As-Siddiq. It targeted a convoy of the Turkish Armed Forces near Idlib city.
The death toll numbered three. At least two other Turkish soldiers were wounded.
Earlier, on September 7, a Turkish officer was killed and four soldiers were wounded in a tunnel bomb attack in the northern countryside of Syria’s Aleppo. The attack was carried out by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The mounting human losses in Syria and Iraq have begun to generate public pressure inside Turkey against these operations. This is highly likely not going to lead to the end of them, but rather to a ramping up. Ankara is likely to increase its shelling and airstrike activities in an attempt to avenge the loss of soldiers.
In case the SAA and its allies begin a ground operation in Greater Idlib, this would provide the SDF with the perfect diversion to increase its attacks on Turkey while it is focused elsewhere. This in turn could lead to a dangerous escalation throughout the northern Syria.