The long awaited and long overdue offensive to rid Idlib governorate of jihadists appears to be underway. This operation is billed as a limited offensive along the Hama-Idlib axis with the goal of expelling all jihadist and rebel forces from the DMZ stretching from the Al-Ghaab Plain to the Abu Dhuhour Crossing.
One report from the Russian MOD claims the SAA launched this offensive to break up a planned jihadist offensive towards Hama and/or the Hmeimim airbase. That may be true, but I doubt this was meant as a spoiling attack. It was deliberately planned, deliberately prepared for and deliberately commenced on a schedule established by the R+6.
Depending on the success of this initial offensive, I can see this developing into something larger including the taking of Idlib itself and the rendering of the Turkish observation posts moot. The remaining jihadis should be driven north of Aleppo.
The offensive was preceded by heavy Russian airstrikes and SAA artillery bombardments. The SAA troops arrayed for this offensive are impressive. At least two major elements of the Tiger Force, the Taha and Tarmeeh Groups, are leading one axis. The 42nd Brigade of the 4th Armored Division is spearheading a second axis to the west of the Tiger Force. Supporting these units are several Republican Guard brigades, the 5th Corps, the 11th Tank Division along with assorted NDF and SSNP forces. The SAA advance proceeded steadily during the day capturing several towns and key heights. In the evening, the jihadists of the Jaysh Al-Izza and Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham groups launched a strong counterattack, but were beaten back with heavy losses. SAA artillery and rocket fire played a large part in defeating this counterattack. Jihadists also launched 36 rockets towards Hmiemim Airbase. Russian air defense forces shot all the attacking missiles down. As of now, the SAA advance continues.
Early rumors of Turkey abandoning one of their NW Hama OPs proved false. They just evacuated four Turkish soldiers wounded in an SAA bombardment of nearby jihadi positions prior to the start of the SAA offensive.
I recommend a daily perusal of Al Masdar News and South Front to obtain a general knowledge of Operation Idlib Dawn in the days ahead.