(4th Division "flash")
"The Syrian Arab Army’s 4th Armored Division has left the Daraa and Sweida provinces for northwest Syria, tonight, a military source told Al-Masdar News.
According to the military source, the 4th Division left southern Syria with a large arsenal of missile launchers and armored vehicles.
In addition to their equipment, the 4th Division is bringing thousands of soldiers that were previously deployed inside the Damascus Governorate.
The 4th Armored Division will be leading their own attack that is separate from the Tiger Forces.
The Tiger Forces will begin their attack along the Idlib-Hama axis, while the 4th Division is believed to be leading the charge in the Al-Ghaab Plain.
Both the Tiger Forces and 4th Division are two of the Syrian Arab Army’s most successful divisions and their battle experience should play an integral role in the offensive." AMN
This is going to be one hell of a rodeo! As the article suggests there will be secondary attacks from the west out of Lattakia Province and from the Aleppo City area pushing toward the west. These will be intended to fix the enemy in place while the main attack drives north from Hama Province to Idlib City and then on to the north.
(shoulder "Flash" of the Defense Companies)
The 4th Armored Division is in my opinion the premier major formation of the Syrian government forces, even better than the redoubtable Tiger Forces task force. The 4th Division was originally created from the Saraya Difaa' (Defense Companies). The name and shoulder patch were obvious echos of Schutzstaffel (Waffen SS). These company sized but numerous units were raised as an Alawi militia that had government support and were meant to protect the interests of the Alawi community. There were persistent reports in the US Army Arabic specialist community, perhaps apocryphal, that the Saraya Difaa' had the benefit of a former Waffen SS Standarten Fuhrer (colonel equivalent) acting as a mercenary to organize and train these troops when they were created. His efforts were joined by Soviet Army armored forces and paratroop instructors.
I remember seeing their infantry riding on the outside of their tanks wearing their special pattern camouflage uniforms and that death's head patch. They certainly looked like historical memory.
Hafez al-Assad's brother Rifaat tried to use these troops in a coup and failed. In the aftermath the Saraya Difaa' were disestablished as a group but not abolished. Some units went into the Republican Guard and others ended up in what is now the 4th Armored Division. In the maelstrom of the civil war they have become a simply outstanding force. pl