Warplanes of the Russian Aerospace Forces carried out a series of airstrikes on militant positons in the villages of Mintar, Frikeh and Tell Khatab in the western Idlib countryside in the afternoon of March 9.
Prior to the airstrikes, the local Step News Agency released a video showing an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) of the Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) conducting a reconnaissance sortie over southern and western parts of Idlib.
The Russian aerial operation came a few hours after a surprise attack on a position of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in northern Hama. Pro-government activists acknowledged that four soldiers and an officer were killed in the attack, that was carried out by Turkish-backed Jaysh al-Ahrar.
A day earlier, the Turkish military began patrolling the demilitarized zone around Idlib in order to reinforce the Turkish-Russian demilitarized zone agreement and stabilize the situation. However, \militants were apparently encouraged by this step, as they have increased their attacks since then.
Turkey’s failure to reinforce the agreement could force the SAA and its allies to launch a military operation around Idlib. Pro-government sources said earlier this month that this option is being considered.