In the afternoon of January 9, Russian forces withdrew from their observation post in the town of Abu Dali in the government-held part of the northern Hama countryside, according to Nedaa Syrian. The news outlet’s report said that the forces withdrew to the nearby town of Tulaysiyah.
Two days ago, Russian forces began working to establish a new military base in the Salba hill south of the town of Hayalin in the northwestern Hama countryside. Local sources said that the forces deployed several military and engineering vehicles in the town.
These unusual Russian movements led to a state of panic among Syrian opposition activists and leaders. Many figures accused Moscow of taking advantage of the ongoing attack of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) [the former branch of al-Qaeda in Syria] on Turkish-backed militants and preparing to launch an attack on the governorate of Idlib.
“What’s happening in Idlib is the wish of the Russians, the Iranians and the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad,” the Syrian news outlet Enab Baladi quoted Brigadier General Ahmed Berri, a commander of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), as saying
In the course of its ongoing attack, HTS imposed control of the majority of the opposition-held part of the western Aleppo countryside and the northwestern Hama countryside and in fact defeated the Turkish-backed Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement and Ahrar al-Sham Movement.
The group is currently preparing to launch a new attack on the remaining Turkish-backed militants in the southern Idlib countryside. Opposition activists fear that if HTS captures that region, Russia will withdraw from the demilitarized zone agreement with Turkey and attack terrorists in Idlib.