Late on February 5, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) launched a large ground assault on Saraqib city in the southeastern Idlib countryside.
According to pro-government sources, units of the army’s elite 25th Special Forces Division had stormed the city under the cover of intense Syrian and Russian airstrikes.
Meanwhile, opposition activists said that al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and its allies had withdrawn all of their militants from the city. The activists went on to claim that the city is now under the SAA’s control. However, many sources are denying this.
Saraqib, the second largest city in southeast Idlib, is the main target of the ongoing SAA military operation. The city is located on the strategic M5 highway, which links the capital, Damascus, with Aleppo city, Syria’s industrial hub.
Last week, the Turkish military established four posts around Saraqib in what was seen as an attempt to stop the SAA’s advance towards the city. The attempt was a failure, as army troops managed to reach the city’s western and southern entrances.
If confirmed, the liberation of Saraqib will be yet another major blow to HTS and its allies as well as to Ankara, that lost seven service members near the city a few days ago.