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The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the Russian military group in the country have escalated their strikes against al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahir al-Sham (HTS) and its allies in the northwestern Syrian region of Greater Idlib in response to repeated violations of the ceasefire there.
The strikes began late on August 21, when Russian warplanes attacked a command post of HTS near the village of Faylun in the southern Idlib countryside.
The Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria revealed that 17 militants of HTS were killed in the airstrikes. Some of the dead were high-ranking commanders of the terrorist group who were responsible for several recent attacks that targeted the SAA in the northern Lattakia countryside and other nearby areas.
On the same day, the Syrian Ministry of Defense announced the downing of three drones, two of which were carrying explosives, over the southern Idlib countryside and the northwestern countryside of Hama. The attack attempt was likely orchestrated by HTS.
The next day, August 22, a series of Russian airstrikes targeted a command post of HTS near the village of Batenta in the northwestern Idlib countryside. According to the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria, 25 militants of the terrorist group were killed in the attack.
More Russian airstrikes hit Greater Idlib overnight between August 22 and 23. Sputnik reported that the airstrikes targeted six command and control posts as well as depots where logistics and drones were stored. According to the Russian news agency, at least 26 militants of HTS were killed in the airstrikes.
On August 23 morning, HTS escalated by firing rockets at the town of Qardaha in the southeastern Lattakia countryside, the hometown of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The official Syrian Arab News Agency said that at least five rockets landed near the town, wounding a civilian.
Later on in the day, the Syrian MoD said that the Russian airstrikes and recent artillery strikes by the SAA were carried out in response to attacks by HTS and its allies that targeted government-held areas around Greater Idlib.
The ministry also announced that Syrian air defenses had shot down five drones over Aleppo, Hama and Lattakia.
A new wave of Russian airstrikes hit Greater Idlib on August 24. The airstrikes targeted the village of Shindrish in the western Idlib countryside, a stronghold of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Turkistan Islamic Party, a close ally of HTS. According to Sputnik, 25 militants of the Uyghur-led terrorist group, including senior commanders, were killed in the airstrikes.
The SAA and the Russian military will likely launch more strikes on Greater Idlib if HTS and its allies continue to violate the ceasefire. However, a new ground operation in the region remains highly unlikely due the objection of Turkey who maintains a large force in the region.