On November 14, the Syrian Army backed up by the Russian Aerospace Forces launched a limited offensive on positions of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its Turkish-backed allies in southern Idlib. Government forces liberated the town of Luwaybidah and the nearby Khaznah hill after a series of clashes with militants. Then, army troops supported by artillery and air strikes advanced on the town of Misherfah.
Clashes are now ongoing in the area.
HTS and its allies have been violating Greater Idlib ceasefire on a daily basis for months. The new ground operation is aimed at deterring these attacks or even expanding a buffer zone in order to push militants’ back from the government-controlled area and further.
On November 13, Syrian and Russian warplanes reportedly carried out over 50 strikes on positions of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other radical groups in southern and western Idlib. In particular, militant positions were hit in Shnan, al-Najeya, Furaykah, al-Mshairfeh, Kafr Nabl, Rakaya Sijneh, Fatterah, Sutuh al-Din, Tramla, Kafar Sijnah, Ma’aret Hurmah, Jbala, Hizareen and Karsaa.
Clashes between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Turkish-backed militants are ongoing in northern al-Hasakah. On November 13, the SDF advanced on positions of pro-Turkish forces in the villages of al-Qasimiyah and al-Rihaniyah. At least 6 Turkish-backed militants were reportedly killed in the SDF advance.
The Russian military has deployed Mi-8 and Mi-35 helicopters and Pantsir-S air-defense systems air defense systems at the al-Qamishly airbase in northeastern Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry’s Zvezda TV reported on November 14. Mi-8 and Mi-35 helicopters are currently involved in the patrols along the Turkish border. The patrols are ongoing in the framework of the Turkish-Russian safe-zone agreement.
Earlier reports appeared, that Russia may have been planning to establish a constant military presence, or even a military base in al-Qamishly. The recent developments demonstrate that even if these particular reports were wrong, the Russians are already using the airport for military purposes.
On the same day, Russian troops took control of the abandoned US military facility in Sarrin in eastern Aleppo. At least 5 Russian armoured vehicles entered the facility and a Mi-35 helicopter was spotted flying in the area.
Following the US troop withdrawal from the north, the Russians took control of their garrisons. Most widely covered such cases happened in Manbij and Ain Issa.
The US military is expanding its presence in the towns of al-Qahtaniyah and Heemo near Qamishly. Recently a US military convoy of approximately 20 trucks loaded with military equipment and several armored vehicles entered northeastern Syria from Iraq. These forces will likely be deployed near Qamishly in order to secure the US control of the oil-rich area east of it.