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As a new year begins, the war in Syria continues to heat up. As of January 4, tensions in various country’s regions have not winded down. Only more escalation is being reported.
In the northwestern region of Greater Idlib, the situation may be heading to a new military confrontation.
On January 1, 2 and 3, the Russian Aerospace Forces carried out a series of airstrikes on militants’ positions and their key facilities throughout the region. Several airstrikes also targeted the outskirts of Idlib city.
The airstrikes were a response to recent violations of the ceasefire regime by al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the de-facto ruler of the region, and its allies.
Militants have recently carried out several indirect fire attacks on government-held areas in the northern Lattakia and the northwestern Hama countryside as well as in the southern and eastern countryside of Idlib.
While the ceasefire regime in the regions is still officially held up, the situation is not expected to ease anytime soon.
Meanwhile, in the northeastern Syria, troops of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and local government supporters are pressuring forces of the US-led coalition.
On January 3, SAA soldiers and locals intercepted a convoy of the international coalition near the town of al-Salihiyah in the northern countryside of al-Hasakah.
The convoy was escorted by two fully-armed AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, which made several law-passes over the town in what was likely an attempt to intimidate the soldiers and the locals. However, they didn’t back down.
In the central region, ISIS insurgency is still strong despite the increased pressure by the SAA and its allies.
On January 1 and 2, at least 40 Russian airstrikes targeted hideouts of ISIS cells in the eastern Homs countryside, the western countryside of Deir Ezzor as well as in the Hama-Aleppo-Raqqa triangle.
The airstrikes didn’t stop cells of the terrorist group, who ambushed a bus transporting SAA soldiers near the T3 station in the eastern countryside of Homs on January 2. Five soldiers were killed and 25 others were wounded.
The SAA and its allies are now preparing to take more significant measures against ISIS cells. According to a recent report by the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, a Russian-backed large-scale operation will start soon.
In the Syria’s southeastern region, troops of the US-led coalition at al-Tanf garrison are cautious.
On January 3, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that the coalition had withdrawn most of its troops from the garrison to Jordan.
The step was reportedly taken out of fear that pro-Iranian forces in Syria or Iraq may attack the garrison to honor the memory of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Deputy-Commander of the Popular Mobilization Units, and Iran’s Quds Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani, who were assassinated by the US exactly two years ago.
The US-led coalition also ordered its main proxy group at al-Tanf, the Revolutionary Commando Army (MaT), to deploy its fighters outside of the garrison.
Meanwhile in the southern region, the situation has been unusually calm. Only one attack was reported in Daraa since the beginning of the year.
It took place on January 3 and claimed the lives of Mohamad Ali al-Bardan and Ahmad Tarad al-Auda.
The two former rebels and current members of the Daraa’s Central Committee were shot dead by unidentified gunmen on Tasil-Adawan road in the western countryside of Daraa.
The war in Syria will likely continue to heat up in the foreseeable future, while the political process is almost dead. The UN is yet to set a date for the next meeting of the country’s Constitution Committee, which is yet to achieve any results.