On November 28, Russian forces launched at least two surface-to-air missiles at an unidentified aerial object near the Hmeimim airbase in the western governorate of Lattakia, according to local sources.
Later, the media office of the Syrian National Defense Forces (NDF) confirmed in a short press release that an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was shot down while it was heading towards Hmeimim airbase.
This was the first drone attack on the strategic Russian base since September 17, when Russia and Turkey reached a demolitarized zone agreement on the governorate of Idlib, east of Lattakia. During the two months prior to the agreement, more than 50 armed UAVs were shot down while they were attempting to attack Hmeimim.
Local observers believe that Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) [the former branch of al-Qaeda in Syria] is responsible for these UAV attacks on Hmeimim.
The Ministry of Defense of Russia also said that a U.S. Poseidon-8 reconnaissance plane had coordinated at least one of these attacks.
Last month, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin warned that Moscow and its allies in Syria will resume their military operations against the militants in northwestern Syria if UAV attacks continue.
However, several recent serious violations of the deconfliction agreement were met with a very limited response by Russia and its allies. This raises the question: will the new escalation will be addressed in a more suitable manner? If it is not, militants will likely consider this as a sign of the weakness and will further expand their violations of the ceasefire regime in western Syria.