On February 4, a commander of the Tiger Forces confirmed that the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the Tiger Forces had halted their military operations in Idlib governorate. Syrian pro-government sources said that the Tiger Forces will build a strong defensive line west of the town of Abu Duhur and then began a wide-scale military operation against ISIS in the northeastern Hama countryside.
On the same day reports appeared that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham retook Tell Sultan in eastern Idlib from the SAA. The situation in the area remains unclear. If the militants aim to regain a large area from the SAA, they may face unexpected pressure from the Russian Aerospace Forces.
The SAA is already conducting a military operation against ISIS in the northeastern Hama pocket. On February 4, the SAA advanced and captured the villages of al-Judaydah, Samiriyah and Umm Hurizah from ISIS, according to the Hezbollah media wing in Syria.
Meanwhile, some Syrian pro-government activists reported that ISIS had begun withdrawing from some positions in the northeastern Hama countryside, including the village of Buyad al-Saffas.
The ISIS withdrawal confirms that the terrorist organization is suffering from a shortage in manpower. Experts believe that only few hundreds of poorly armed ISIS fighters are currently besieged in the pocket.
A video released by the Syrian Defense Ministry on February 3, showed what appears to be a BTR-82a of the Russian Army taking part in the ongoing attack against ISIS in the northeastern Hama countryside. This confirms that the upcoming wide-scale military operation against ISIS there will be fully backed by the Russian forces deployed in Syria.
The SAA and the Tiger Forces will likely complete their new mission in the northeast Hama countryside within a short period. After securing the SAA rear in Hama, the SAA and the Tiger Forces may resume their military operation against the former branch of al-Qaeda in Syria, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, in Idlib governorate, according to pro-government sources.