On March 31, warplanes of the Russian Aerospace Forces conducted a series of airstrikes on positions of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and several other radical groups in the villages of Ariha, al-Dana and the city of Jisr al-Shughur, according to Syrian pro-opposition sources.
The Syrian pro-opposition news outlet Enab Baladi also reported that Russian warplanes had destroyed the bridges of al-Jaid, al-Sharia and Twinah in the northwestern Hama countryside.
Syrian opposition activists believe that these airstrikes are the first stage of a large military operation that the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies are planning to launch in the northwestern Hama countryside and parts of the western Idlib countryside later this year.
On March 1, Russia warned the militants in these areas that they will face a military operation, if they do not hand over their positions to the SAA.
A military operation by the SAA and its allies in the northwestern Hama countryside and the western Idlib countryside is highly unlikely now. The SAA is currently busy securing the Syrian capital of Damascus.
However, such operation is very necessary, according to Syrian experts, as these areas have become a heartland for radical groups like HTS and the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP). Moreover, militants have used these areas as a foothold to attack the Russian Aerospace Forces’ Hmeimim airbase, with rockets and armed drones, on several occasions.