On February 23, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) launched a new ground offensive in the southern countryside of Idlib.
The army’s elite 25th Special Forces Division is reportedly leading the offensive. The 4th Division and the 5th Corps are also participating.
In the very first hour of the attack, army troops liberated the towns of Hantoteen, north of the city of Ma`arat al-Nu`man, and Sheikh Dames south of it.
Warplanes of the Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) and the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) provided the army with a close air support. Intense airstrikes are now targeting most of the southern Idlib countryside.
Earlier, pro-government sources reported that the SAA is preparing to launch a large-scale operation to liberate all the areas south of the M4 highway. It remains unclear if the ongoing offensive is a part of the operation, or a limited action aimed at further securing the newly-liberated areas in southeastern Idlib.
Al-Qaeda-affiliated Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and other Turkish-backed factions are showing a fierce resistance in southern Idlib now. However, the army will likely advance further in the upcoming few hours.