On December 16, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the National Defense Forces (NDF) continued their operation against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) in southern Idlib, according to pro-government sources.
The SAA and the NDF reportedly captured the areas of Al-Zahraa and Al-Hawiya south of the militant-held village of Abu Dali. According to some sources, government forces also establsihed control over the village of Musharifah.
On December 15, the SAA and its allies recaptured the strategic Syriatel Hill south of Abu Dali. This advance allowed government troops to develop momentum on December 16.
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham is now facing a significant pressure from the SAA and the NDF in southern Idlib and in the area west of Khanasir. As a result of this pressure, the militants will likely be forced to abandon some of their positions in the areas with a low density of the population. This will allow Hayat Tahrir al-Sham to use civilians as human shields against air and artillery strikes of the government forces.