On May 13, ten fighters of the Syrian National Defense Forces (NDF) were killed and at least nine others were wounded when a missile struck a bus that was carrying them near the town of Anjara in the western countryside of Aleppo.
The Turkish-backed National Front for Liberation (NFL) claimed responsibility for the attack, which was the deadliest to target government forces in this part of Syria in the last two years. The group said that its fighters targeted the bus with an anti-tank guided missile (ATGM).
The missile was reportedly launched from the Greater Idlib region, where a ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey is in place. The NFL is Turkey largest proxy in the region.
The victims of the attack were all from the towns of Nubl and al-Zahraa in the northern Aleppo countryside. The NDF branch in the two Shiite towns has close ties to Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The attack was apparently a response to a recent ATGM strike that targeted a shuttle bus of the NFL in the al-Ghab Plains in the northwestern countryside of Hama. The strike, which took place on May 8, claimed the lives of six Turkish-backed militants and wounded four others.
The deadly attack, which represents a blatant violation of Greater Idlib ceasefire, will not likely go unpunished. The Syrian Arab Army and its allies always respond to such violations with brute force.
The halt of all major military operations in Greater Idlib have clearly emboldened the militants occupying the region, especially al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and the NFL.