On February 7, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), backed up by the Russian Aerospace Forces, repelled a Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) attack on its positions in the southeastern Idlib countryside, according to Syrian pro-government sources. The SAA reportedly killed and injured several fighters of HTS and its allies during the clashes.
Additionally, Russian warplanes destroyed several headquarters and ammo depots of the so-called Free Idlib Army in the city of Maarrat al-Nu’man in the southern Idlib countryside, according to Syrian activists.
Syrian opposition sources revealed that thirteen Free Idlib Army fighters, including their general commander “Mohammad Abu Najib”, were killed in the Russian airstrikes on Maarrat al-Nu’man. Russian warplanes also destroyed more than four vehicles armed with anti-aircraft guns belonging to the group. SF
The SAA is rapidly eliminating jihadist forces in the East Hama pocket. Bereft of a source of re-supply through encirclement the jihadis are being rapidly overrun and destroyed. By the time of this writing that pocket may be altogether eliminated. This will free up the forces involved to return to the attritional grinding process underway NW of Abu Duhur around the town of Tel Sultan. The SAA made a decision to eliminate the East Hama pocket before continuing to the west into Idlib Province. At their positions around Tel Sultan they had clearly gone past the culminating point of their drive to Abu Duhur and although they could have continued immediately, the risk of a sudden reversal brought on by exactly the kind of jihadi counter-attack now underway would have been great. Wisely they decided to improve the odds in their favor and have reduced the East Hama pocket to their operational rear and are bringing up more logistical support before continuing into Idlib. The wealth of air support available to them has been a great help in this. When they re-commence forward movement I hope they share my view that a right hook to Al-Eis to roll up the jihadi flank south of the Aleppo City is the best course of action. pl
"A local militia was conducting reconnaissance actions in the area to detect and eliminate the ISIS cell when it was surprisingly shelled by mortars, rocket launched and then the US-led coalition’s attack helicopters. 25 militiamen were injured as a result of the attack." SF
It appears to me thus far that the "troops" attacked were NDF militia from the area. They are likely to be Arab tribesmen, heavily trained and advised by IRGC Quds force people and supported by SAA artillery and and armor. These Arab tribesman are undoubtedly very hostile to the presence of the Kurdish SDF this far south of traditional Kurdish haunts. The US is pursuing an enduring role in Syria and had previously warned the Russians and through them the SAG that intrusions east of the Euphrates in Deir al-Zor Province would be met by force. This does not bode well for future US/SAG relations. US and Iranian hegemonic ambitions are nose to nose in Eastern Syria. pl
"Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected the recent statement by the head of Turkey’s Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, regarding a potential meeting between Ankara and Damascus.
“What would we talk about with a murderer who has killed a million of his citizens,” Erdogan said in his address to mukhtars— heads of Turkish villages and neighbourhoods—at the presidential complex in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, as quoted by TRT World." AMN
The sultan is pretending to be motivated by concern for the Syrian peoples. Nonsense. He sees the opportunity to weaken Syria in pursuit of some future de facto annexations in northern Syria. Unfortunately for him the TSK is not doing well in establishing "facts on the ground" to support such ambitions. At the same time, the Turks are positioning small bodies of troops at Al-Eis, Idlib City and Saraqib supposedly to implement the Russian/Iranian/Turkish de-escalation agreement on Idlib Province but IMO their real purpose is to obstruct SAG recovery of the province. pl