On February 26 afternoon, al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and the National Front for Liberation (NFL) launched a new attack on Syrian Arab Army (SAA) positions around Saraqib city with direct Turkish support.
Within a few hours, Turkish-backed militants imposed control of the towns of Salihiya and Afis to the north of Saraqib. SAA troops were pushed back to the vicinity of the city.
Militants reportedly captured three battle tanks, including a Russian-supplied T-90, in the course of the attack. Other military vehicles were destroyed.
A few day ago, a similar attack backed, and possibly planned, by Turkey allowed HTS and the NFL to capture the town of al-Nayrab, northwest of Saraqib. The SAA withdrew from the town, leaving behind loads of weapons.
SAA troops around Saraqib city appear to be facing some serious issues, including a poor coordination and a weak decision making among field commanders. The morale of Syrian service members there also appear to be low, for no clear reason.
Turkish-backed militants will likely develop their offensive around Saraqib, taking advantage of absence of the SAA’s elite units. These units, including the 25th Special Forces Division and the 4th Division, are now advancing in southern Idlib, dozens of kilometers away from the city.