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Russia released a video showing its Orion combat drone carrying out strikes on targets in Syria. This marked the very first time such footage was being released. It shows the drone’s operation, lock-on and launching of a payload on a militant target. The Orion is a long-flight duration attack-reconnaissance UAV, that can also carry out airstrikes. According to the report, this type of UAV has carried out 38 sorties, including 17 strike missions.
Meanwhile, a new electronic surveillance system has been spotted at the Russian-operated Hmeimim Air Base. The Avtobaza-M can determine the parameters of signals and types of radars, track air and seaborne objects by their electronic signature and support higher air defense command and control posts with data.
Despite the ISIS threat in central Syria, the focus of the key players is evidently shifting towards Idlib. The US and its ally-to-be Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) will begin active movements soon.
Russia reported that HTS is preparing to stage a chemical attack, similar to those that led to US missile strikes back in 2018 and earlier. More than once, the US-led coalition carried out strikes on Syrian government forces, in punishment of alleged chemical weapons usage.
This sense of urgency is also felt in the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). The government forces are opening a civilian corridor to evacuate civilians from Greater Idlib.
This is likely because an offensive is on the way, the SAA is preparing, likely together with Russia and some Iranian support to push on the biggest militant stronghold left in Syria. To prime the location, the SAA carried out heavy shelling, killing or injuring at least 5 militants in the process.
This is likely an ideal moment to push for Idlib, because Turkey is focused in Northeastern Syria, and so is the US. The SAA has deployed large amounts of forces in that region, which is out of the way.
It also moved its short-range defense systems to Iraq, which makes it an even more opportune moment for the SAA and Russia to push to push in another direction, and namely Idlib. The following days will show whether this evacuation of civilians is, indeed, a preparation for an offensive.
The ceasefire regime and the demilitarized zone are largely non-functional, despite Russia’s efforts to implement them. Turkey, the other co-signatory, is focused on fighting the Kurdish in the north. Even without that distraction, it seldom paid any attention to adhering to the rules set out in the deal.
The Syrian Arab Army, and its allies, likely need to push before HTS are completely rebranded as “moderate opposition” and their ties to al-Qaeda are forgotten. Additionally, this needs to be happen before ISIS pushes further out from central Syria.