Operation Idlib Dawn Update – TTG


BEIRUT, LEBANON (7:00 A.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) scored a big advance in the southwestern countryside of the Idlib Governorate this past weekend. Led by the Tiger Forces, the Syrian military meticulously advanced along the Hama-Idlib axis over the weekend, seizing one site after another from the militants.

This advance by the Syrian Arab Army eventually led to the capture of Al-Hobeit in southwestern Idlib, marking the first time that they have established a foothold in this part of the governorate since 2014.

In the Anna News video below, the Syrian Arab Army’s operation is chronicled from its start to its conclusion:  (Al Masdar News)


Yes, the SAA’s strategy of careful conservation of their forces while pressuring the jihadis with a mixture of surprise maneuvers, persistence and the application of massive, precision firepower is bearing fruit. The Anna News video explains much of this quite well. Pay particular attention to the use of night assaults and long range precision sniping with T-72 and T-90 tanks equipped with thermal imaging sights. Air and artillery precision strikes are aided by aerial drones. As far back as the mid-70s, the Benning School for Boys taught us that if you can be seen, you can be killed. We learned to make use of “the minute folds in the terrain” as cover and concealment to keep our light infantry asses from being blown off. You can see the SAA infantrymen doing the same thing. “Those are regulars, by God!” 

This victory is more than just another town in Idlib. It is of great military significance. As someone mentioned in the video, Khan Sheikhoun and the M5 is within sight of al Hobeit at a distance of eight kilometers. How confident are the Syrians that they can keep this town? On August 12 the Syrian Defense Minister visited al Hobeit. That’s confidence. 

The jihadis in Khan Sheikhoun not only have to sweat the Tiger Force at al Hobeit, they face a similar threat to their east. In a surprise assault, the SAA took the high ground of Tal Sukayk and the town of Sukayk capturing large quantity of jihadi arms and ammunition in the process. These SAA forces are now ten kilometers from Khan Sheikhoun. A massive jihadi counterattack on Tal Sukayk was repelled with massive losses to the jihadis in both men and equipment. The SAA is moving more forces into both these fronts. The goal appears to be an envelopment of Khan Sheikhoun from the east and west isolating a cauldron of jihadis in their strongholds of Latamanah and Morek. The jihadis have two choices. Either die in place without Turkish resupply or have the living Jesus knocked out of them by Syrian and Russian air assets as they evacuate through Khan Sheikhoun.

This is not the only good news from Idlib Dawn. The 4th Armored Division is finally on the verge of entering Kabani. The 42nd Brigade has seized the entire Zuwayqat Mountains south of Kabani from the jihadis. In this battle, Russian assault helicopters, including the all weather Mi-28N attack helicopters, lead the assault in close coordination with the 42nd Brigade’s advance. The Zuwayqat Mountains and the town of Kabani overlook the entire al Ghaab Plain and the important town of Jish al Shigour. That the 42nd Brigade was able to do this after more than two months of heavy offensive operations is a testament to their discipline and professionalism. 


As of this morning, the Tiger Force has advanced past al Hobeit to Kafr Ayn, Mantar and Tal Aas. They are now three kilometers from Khan Sheikhoun. I smell a bubbling cauldron forming… with a Turkish observation post inside.




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50 Responses to Operation Idlib Dawn Update – TTG

  1. turcopolier says:

    Nothing like a good kesselschlacht. It smells like victory. Yes, “those are regulars by God!”

  2. plantman says:

    This fight in the so-called DMZ has been going on for some time. I find it impossible to believe that these Sunni militants are not getting logistical support from outside.(Washington or Ankara??) Otherwise, how could a group of no-account jihadists be able to stave off a conventional military for so long??
    And once the zone is cleared of jihadis, then what?? Will Putin support an attack on the Turkish units that are holding territory in North syria?
    No way.
    Putin has done an admirable job preventing the jihadist alliance (US-Turkey-S Arabia??) from toppling the Assad government and turning the country into another Libya, but the borders in the North and east have already been redrawn by the invaders. It doesn’t look to me like that will change. But I could be wrong.

  3. Plantman, of course the jihadis are being resupplied, rearmed and reinforced through Turkey. It’s been that way since the beginning. Didn’t you see the M-16 with night sight captured from the jihadis in the video. There have been many photos of the brand new Turkish APCs filled with jihadis.
    I doubt the SAA will attack the Turkish observation posts, but they will choke them out and make the Turks life a living hell if they don’t withdraw. It may take a long time, but I’m fairly confident Damascus will eventually regain control over all Syrian territory. Ten towns in Raqqa governorate signed on with Damascus recently. More will follow as the FUKUS alliance proves its fecklessness.

  4. JP Billen says:

    Any thoughts on the next cauldron after Khan Sheikoun? I see there have been a lot of airstrikes softening up defenses on secondary roads on the way to Maarat al-Nu’man – parallel to the M5 on its western side. If so, that would put two more Turkish OPs in the pot.
    Jihadis are bragging they shot down a Syrian AF Sukhoi near Khan Sheikoun. Sounds like propaganda to compensate for their loss of so much territory there.

  5. Great update, TTG! Seems like the terrorists are leaving Khan Shaykhun fast. So if there’s any evidence of the poison gas incident left, or witnesses, they may not have time to remove it or eliminate the witnesses. It would be good to get that incident finally cleared up.
    The Russian reconciliation teams are reported to be working out of the airbase, not on the ground. Is that a dud report or are they tackling reconciliation differently in Idlib? Just wonder how the civilian leaders would be getting to the airbase through it all.

  6. EO, The Russian Reconciliation Center is headquartered at the airbase, but it has teams working all over Syria. Whenever the SAA clears an area, the reconciliation teams are there. The Russians also have observation posts around Idlib just like the Turks.

  7. Grazhdanochka says:

    A SyAAF Su-22 has been lost in South Idlib Area, Pilot Captured by those on the Ground – Hopefully he can be rescued through talks or force. I would not envy his Fate.
    What I do wonder is – having taken many losses of late – but having had a long period of relative quiet to refit and reinforce – how serious could those in the ‘Cauldron’ resist or is it better to leave the Door open for a contested withdrawl through Khan Sheykhun? (with those from Tal Sukayk moving north to At Tamanyah first)
    Normally I think the approach best (unless overwhelming means is available) – is to leave the Lid off the Pot, encouraging a withdrawl – that you contest. But Khan Sheykhun has it seems few Elevations near by to guard its approach or exit, and no doubt Civil Traffic will be heavy as Civilians try avoid the likely battle… So mining the exit and attacking light forces is a major Issue…
    I just worry how many might be in that Area around Murak etc, that may again slow down the advance of SAA forces that ideally would like to move North into the interior of Enemy Lines.

  8. turcopolier says:

    IMO with the jihadis retreating in disarray the SAA should pursue them north along the M5 corridor, leading with the armored teams and conducting a series of shallow double envelopments as they move north. the important thing is to keep up the pace and the pressure using Syrian and RU air to create a “pont au feu” (bridge of fire) over which the advance can continue. If you will pardon a historical conceit, this would be much like Sherman’s advance to Atlanta from north Georgia.

  9. walrus says:

    What happens if a heavily armed Jihadi rump retreats and finds itself with its back on the Syrian-turkish border? Is Erdogan going to let these bastards retreat into Turkish territory with weapons and units intact? I would have thought not because they then could threaten the region if they get loose. There are a lot of European, and American tourists all over Turkey who are potential targets.
    I would hope that the Turkish Army would seal the border, providing an anvil against which the jihadis can be crushed.
    I also think we are due for a White helmet compassion attack shortly. You know – poison gas/barrel bombing/hospitals/dead children etc. Probably timed for the weekend talk shows.

  10. JSmyth says:

    If Robert E. Lee had been one-tenth as bad as his reputation in modern America (or modern South where his statues defaced and destroyed daily) he could have made the decision to shift to a guerrilla campaign and bled the North for 200 years. Consider how many 20th-century foreign entanglements this would’ve precluded. But also lives. I had family on both sides. I assume you did as well, Col. Lang? (https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-soldiers.htm#sort=score+desc&q=Lang)

  11. Grazhdanochka says:

    Whilst I agree a lot, the Issue with this is two Fold.
    Depth of Force – These Forces may already have a good motivation to stay and fight given prexistant positions.. – which if sufficient Number – may reduce that advance we all desire beyond… allowing the bulk to dig in again…
    Making sure any advance does not indeed promote them to stand fast as opposed to continual withdrawal – A good part of this depends on the depth of SAA Forces

  12. JP Billen says:

    Grazhdanochka –
    With a Lid on the Pot the TKK troops near Morek would be surrounded. The Turkish government would have to beg the Russians to protect them and help with an evacuation. Assad and many in Damascus would probably love to humiliate Erdogan.

  13. anon says:

    Where is Syria getting its ammo from.seems like Russia has lost a few ammunition dumps lately.https://www.dw.com/en/explosions-rip-through-russian-ammunition-depot-for-second-time/a-49969498.
    Guy fawkes would be proud.

  14. turcopolier says:

    I would love to belong to the SCV but sadly am unqualified. My uniformed ancestors were in Wisconsin infantry regiments.

  15. Unhinged Citizen says:

    I hope that the leveled Khan Shaykhoun is paved over and the Syrians erect a 500 m statue of Hafez extending the middle finger in the general direction of Turkey, for its role in the gas attack hoax.

  16. Barbara Ann says:

    Idlib could yet prove to be Erdogan’s nemesis. Will he escalate to protect the TAF forces in the OP’s once they start (soon) to be cut off? Russia has surely anticipated this possibility and neutralized the threat. Alternatively, if the jihadis see TAF forces pulling out and realize they have been betrayed, will they let them do so unimpeded, or perhaps look for some hostages to force Turkey’s hand?
    I can’t imagine Erdogan will let the takfiris back into Turkey, for the reasons you set out. But if Turkish forces are used to kill them in order to prevent this, Turkey itself could immediately become Global Jihad enemy #1.
    The time bomb of close to 4m Syrian refugees is a third third problem. Hostility towards their guests has been increasing in Turkey and a flood of yet more from Idlib may result in outright violence directed against them and maybe even the government. This would be far from the image of Turkey as Leader of the Islamic World which the Sultan wishes to portray. What a mess.
    Turkish press still has almost nothing on Idlib despite the recent advances by the SAA, Syrian column inches are all taken up with speculations about the Safe Zone plans. Previously, Turkish press has played up Turkey’s role in protecting the Ummah in Syria. The relative silence now suggests to me that Erdogan will seek to cut his losses in Idlib. Russia has the ability to make this excruciatingly difficult, or not. I’d therefore expect Erdogan to be forced to accept terms dictated by Russia/SAG in due course and the longer he delays the worse those terms will be for Turkish interests in NW Syria.

  17. ISL says:

    Thank you TTG, pieces like this are why SST is a rare gem on the internet.

  18. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    The operation to eliminate Assad was not of Turkish origin, even though the current regime took an active and enthusiastic part in it. FYI, the plot is still alive. The FUKUS-I gang is still trying to oust Assad through their PKK/PYG proxies. The game might get even more interesting when/if the SAA finally meets PKK/PYG and their “advisors”.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  19. BraveNewWorld says:

    I suspect if the Jihadis are routed in Turkey they will ether be flown to the new safe zone or flown out of the country, likely to do some work around Lybia.

  20. Jane says:

    It would be useful to know just which groups they are fighting and where. Is HTS heavily involved, Ahrar al Sham or what? Where are the Chechens or other foreign groupings now?

  21. Mathias Alexander says:

    Likely to be some work in Central Asia destabalizing Iran/ Russia/China.

  22. Mathias Alexander says:

    ” Where are the Chechens or other foreign groupings now?”
    Central Asia?

  23. JohninMK says:

    It was a Su-22 flying too low.

  24. JP Billen says:

    More likely that Erdogan will settle them on Kurdish land in southeastern Turkey to continue ethnic cleansing.

  25. JP Billen says:

    Yes, I finally saw that the Syrian AF has confirmed they lost radar contact with it. There are conflicting reports though from the jihadis about how it was shot down, one said MANPAD, another said HMG.
    The SU-22 is a 50+ year old design still flying. And since 2011 the Syrian AF has been flying more sorties with the SU-22 than these aircraft were designed to handle. Many “failed and crashed or simply wore out and had to be grounded.”
    So I wonder if the one lost just now in Idlib is one of the ten Iranian SU-22s that were gifted to the Syrian AF in early 2015? Those ten were some of the same aircraft that the Iraqi Air Force flew to Iran during the 1991 war for safekeeping. Iran confiscated them as war reparations. And five years ago the IRGC restored ten to operational condition by raiding spares from hangar queens and gave them to the Syrian AF along with spares and maintenance support.

  26. Jane, HTS is taking the brunt of the beating in southern Idlib/northern Hama. Turkey is now moving NLF jihadis down from Afrin to reinforce the Khan Sheikhoun front. The NLF is a coalition of jihadis closely aligned with Turkey. The HTS has its roots in Syrian al Qaeda/al Nusra. NLF and HTS jihadis fight each other when they’re not fighting the SAA.

  27. Jane says:

    A plague on all their houses.

  28. Jane says:

    When last heard from, they were in Idlib except for those who fight with ISIS. In Idlib, the Chechen jihadis heard that the Russian MP unit which was tasked with interaction with the civilian populations in areas retaken by the SARG [as they did in Aleppo] was in fact made up of [obviously loyalist] Chechens [and other Muslims from the RF], they went on the attack and the SAA and Russians had to go in and save them.
    Neither the Uighurs nor the Central Asians have anywhere to retreat to, which is also the case for the Chechens. I would assume that they would be more inclined to fight alongside the AQ types rather than the “Syrian” groups, but I do not know. From what I recall earlier, these were each separate ethnic units that fought with but not necessarily under the central jihadi organizations.
    In the former ISIS-land, the dead RF jihadis left behind many orphans. The RF sent in native speakers of all the Caucasian languages to determine their origin. With the help of DNA, they were able to get many back into their families back home. Where there are living mothers, I don’t know if the RF has a systematic policy of what to do with these widows.

  29. Philippe Truze says:

    The Colonel is mentioning the “FUKUS” alliance in northern Syria, but I am not sure that there is still a willingness to fight the Syrians and the Russians among the French component of this “force”. Macron knows that the French public opinion is fed up with this war and does not believe anymore the French mainstream medias reports. Many Frenchs are in favor of getting some sort of agreement with the Russians (if not with Assad) to get rid of the jihadists, especially the 1 to 2 thousands French warriors amongst them. Nobody – not even Macron – want them to be rapatriated in France for trial, preferring the issue to be delt with local (syrian, irakis) authorities, whatever severe would be the punishments. Only the “islamo-gauchistes” (islamo-leftits) are defending this “solution”. Sometimes I have the feeling that the French are siding the US in northern Syria only by fidelity to an old ally, rather than to defend some French interests – a part the long time alliance between the the French socialists et the Muslim Brothers, against the secular regimes of Libya, Egypt, and Syria, since the Suez Operation en 1956. Macron and Putin will meet on august 19th, in southern France. We will see if there is an official inflexion of the French policy in this region.

  30. JP Billen says:

    In fairness, it was TTG and Ishmael Zechariah that mentioned FUKUS, and not the Colonel.
    There is no “willingness to fight the Syrians and the Russians” in the US and the UK as well as in France. In the past we unfortunately did have that willingness. But only through ill-chosen proxies who have now been either incorporated into the ranks of HTS, or who have fled the country to become refugees, or are dead.

  31. Philippe Truze says:

    You are right, JP B, but, one day or another, because of the “logic of the situation”, US/UK or French troops (actually special forces, concerning France) could lead to a face-à-face between western troops and SAA/Russian elements. In France no political force is wishing this situation. Concerning US, I don’t even know who is in charge of the politico-strategic aspects of their presence in Syria. If you add the Turkish army and the PPK Kurds in the equation, then everything becomes possible, if not wished…

  32. JP Billen says:

    It is a disaster in the US that we have idiots like John Bolton and the many NeoCons that are thirsting for more war in the Middle East. Ditto, or perhaps more airheaded, is our R2P believers, whose brains have been steamed and creamed, and want regime change.
    But I know of no US citizens that want war with Russia. Other than perhaps a few teenage imbéciles who have zero influence and zero credibility.

  33. Barbara Ann says:

    Looks like M5 is now closed to southbound traffic. Erdogan has a big problem now.

  34. Rather than assaulting Khan Sheikhoun directly from the west, the Tiger Force turned north then east to seize the towns and high ground overlooking the M5. They now have fire control of M5. They appear to be putting the jihadis in Khan Sheikhoun into the same cauldron as well as the remaining jihadis in north Hama and the Turkish observation post at Morek. Turkey tried to send a column into Khan Sheikhoun to establish another observation post in order to forestall the fall of the town. It didn’t work. The Tiger Force was too quick and the Syrians conducted a “warning” airstrike on the Turkish column and managed to kill a jihadi leader in the process. Naturally, the Turks are crying like rats eating onions.
    I fail to see the Turkish reasoning in thinking the existing deescalation zone agreements would allow them to set up another OP at Khan Sheikhoun. With that kind of reasoning, the Russians could establish OPs at Jisr al Shighur and Idlib.

  35. JP Billen says:

    Looks like MG al Hassan outfoxed the Turks and their jihadi buddies by jinking NE. While at the same time he is at the gates of KS, maybe inside by now.
    Is that 5th Corps in the east on that NW Sukayk/al-Tamaniyah axis? They appear to be bogged down. But there are reports that they beat off a large counterattack by HTS.

  36. Fred says:

    “… the military operations by the regime forces continue in Idlib region in violation of the existing memorandums and agreements with the Russian Federation…”
    Perhaps someone should tell the Turks that Syria is a sovereign state and isn’t run by Russia?

  37. JP, yes the 5th Corps is at Sukayk. They have been taking the bulk of the counterattacks and killing jihadis in the process. Hitting them from both the east and west has been a brilliant move. All those counterattacks at Sukayk meant less jihadis in front of the Tiger Force.

  38. turcopolier says:

    the idea should be to get them to flee to the north through the jaws presented by Tiger Forces and 5th corps and just tear the shit out of them. Send them HOME.

  39. I’m all for tearing up the jihadis as they try to run the gauntlet between 5th Corps and the Tiger Force. I see the Turkish backed FSA is sending massive reinforcements south to try to relieve their jihadi brethren. What great targets for Russian and Syrian pilots and artillerymen. Just don’t allow any more truces.

  40. turcopolier says:

    Yes, and then the pursuit should be driven to the death site of the last jihadist. there should be several bulldozers with every column in the pursuit.

  41. It doesn’t appear to be any danger of having a cease fire imposed on the SAA by Russia. Lavrov has told Turkey that the jihadists will be crushed. To reinforce that message, Russian Su-35s have chased off a couple of Turkish F-16s attempting to intervene at Khan Sheikhoun.

  42. JP Billen says:

    Turkısh FM Cavusoglu is saying Turkey will not withdraw from Idlib observation points. Especially Morek, which is the one in the kettle.

  43. Tunde says:

    A fascinating explanation of operational maneuverings being conducted by the SAA and allied forces. I came across a piece by Aymen al-Tamimi and wondered if you thought the sentiments expressed by the interviewee were accurate, in the main ; http://www.aymennjawad.org/2019/08/some-guy-in-the-special-force-interview
    What struck me was the belief that the Russians were not to be trusted…….
    “A: The situation generally: if you follow the statements of the Russians in the past two days, they have affirmed that the raids they have carried out do not conform with the advance on the ground and the cost has become exorbitant. And it has been necessary for the Syrian government to pay the costs. And two days ago they struck the Iranian positions and said it was by mistake. And I see [/think] that the Iranians will not leave Syria in this state with the Russians, and they will assume responsibility for the entire Idlib operation with weapons, equipment and ammunition, and even the soldiers on the ground. And in this state of affairs the Hezb [Hezbollah] will come down to the Idlib battle.”
    Also, if I may be so presumptuous to ask you to cast your considerable expertise on the burgeoning security crisis in the Azawad region which is increasingly destabilizing Mali, Niger and Northern Nigeria. There has been a lot of talk of jihadis migrating from the Syrian front to this conflict zone and the FUKUS alliance has been strengthening personnel numbers in the region. Keep up the good work !

  44. Barbara Ann says:

    Cavusoglu is in denial and/or geographically challenged. I’m looking forward to RT’s footage of Russian MP’s escorting TAF personnel out of Morek OP in due course. Turkey is apparently starting to build a new OP 10km or so further up the M5 at Hish. I’d advise them to fit this one with wheels and a tow bar, that way the occupants can observe the SAA all the way back to Hatay.

  45. Tunde, the sentiments expressed by the soldier interviewee are perfectly reasonable. Russia is in Syria for the good of Russia. All Russia does in the region is for the good of Russia. This is why they balance Turkey and Syria as they do. It is a prudent policy and they are clear in this. Iran and Hezbollah have a deeper tie to Syria and this is also perfectly understandable.
    I have thought about Azawad and the situation in Mali from time to time. I have a special interest in that region due to my work with the Malian DGSE. I also found Timkuktu to be a magical place. I will look a little closer at the current situation and write something up in the near future. I don’t know if France will continue to play such a prominent role there as time goes by. They were key to stopping the jihadis a few years back.

  46. JP Billen says:

    Why stop at Hatay? Idlib is not the only Turkish occupied land in Syria. Retake Afrin and the Euphrates Shield Zone as well as Idlib, and kick them back to Kilis and Gazientep.
    But right now there are reports that Turkey is reportedly working on two scenarios regarding the Morek OP, despite Cavusoglu’s earlier statement. One would be to move the observation point just to the south of the Maaraat Numan district as you mentioned. The other would be a meeting with the Syrian regime with Russian mediation to keep the observation point where it is. I’d like to be a fly on the wall during that meeting. IF it happens that is, as far as I know the Syrians have not agreed to meet with them.

  47. JP Billen says:

    There is a thoroughly detailed article on Wikipedia concerning the Idlib Dawn Offensive. It references more than 600 citations from a wide variety of sources.
    Interestingly they quote a Syrian military source regarding the Turkish OP at Morek: ‘They’re free to stay or leave as they please. They can go through KhanSheikoun if route is secure enough for them. If not, we’ll escort them to Al-Bab thru Aleppo countryside’. Fat chance that Erdo or MoD Hulusi Akar would ever agree to being escorted by the SAA.
    They also note reports that many rebel groups fled north. Except for HTS, which withdrew from Khan Sheikhoun to go south towards Kafr Zita, Lataminah, and Morek. IF true, there will be much mopping up to do in the pocket. But IMO it might be better to contain them there and just use air to wipe them out while the SAA takes another bite out of Idlib.

  48. Barbara Ann says:

    Re “Why stop at Hatay?”
    Former British Ambassador Ford has the following to say on possible future Kurdish cooperation with the SAA to liberate the Turkish-occupied ES and OB areas.
    One scenario Western planners would be wise to anticipate, however, is that after retaking Idlib, now looking nailed on, Syrian government forces start to tackle the pro-Turkish militias operating close to the Turkish border in areas including Afrin, previously Kurdish-controlled. At that point, assuming a ‘safe zone’ had been set up as per US-Turkish plans, who would bet on Kurdish forces not joining up with Assad against the common enemy, and if that happens how long before the Kurdish rug is pulled out from under the feet of the Americans and British in the Coalition-occupied areas of Hasakeh and Deir Ez Zor?

  49. JP Billen says:

    Makes sense to me, Barbara. Some say it is already happening, albeit in very small numbers. An article in the Guardian last September by Martin Chulov and Mohammed Rasool claimed “Aggrieved Kurdish fighters quietly join Syrian regime side in battle for Idlib”. Undoubtedly it is being done on the Q.T. so as not to aggravate Americans. Or the Turks! There are, or used to be, many ethnic Kurdish villages or mixed Kurdish/Arab villages in Idlib province. There are 20 or 30 in the NW of the province up by Salqin and Kafr Takharim, plus four or five more down SW around Jisr al-Shugur. Probably most have been ‘cleansed’ or destroyed, or the residents Arabized themselves and are paying jihadi taxes.
    It is not a precedent for the Kurds to fight alongside Syrian Government forces. The YPG in Aleppo City’s Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood teamed up with the SAA to fight against jihadis during the liberation of that city. Source for that is a post by Colonel Lang three years ago.

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