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After a short period of relative calm, war in Syria is heating up again as a result of an escalation by terrorist groups and Israel.
In the northwestern Syrian region of Greater Idlib, which is occupied by al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and other terrorist groups, escalation began with a drone attack on May 25.
A suicide drone targeted the government-held town of Khan Shikhun in the southern Idlib countryside, where Russian troops are known to be deployed. The drone was shot down by Syrian air defenses over the outskirts of the town before it could reach its designated target. No material losses or casualties were reported as a result of the failed attack, which was most likely launched by HTS.
On May 26, the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) responded by launching a series of airstrikes on the outskirts of the towns of Fleifel and Sufuhon in the southern Idlib countryside. The airstrikes hit command and control positions, ammunition depots and barracks of HTS and its allies.
This was the first Russian attack to target Greater Idlib since December, when the Turkish-Syrian normalization process began to pick up momentum.
A second wave of Russian airstrikes hit Greater Idlib on May 30. This time, the target was reportedly a command post of HTS near the town of Bzabor in the southern Idlib countryside.
In Syria’s central region, ISIS also escalated its attack. On May 25, some 150 terrorists of the group attacked a base near the town of al-Sukhnah in the eastern Homs countryside, where 40 Russian troops were deployed. The attack was repelled by Russian troops. However, Colonel Oleg Pechevisty lost his life along with other four officers during the clashes.
Russian forces responded by launching a series of airstrikes against ISIS hideouts in the eastern Homs countryside. The deadly attack showed that ISIS presence in central Syria is still relatively strong.
Adding to the escalation in Syria, Israel resumed its airstrikes on the country on May 28. A wave of airstrikes, which were launched by Israel F-16 fighter jets from the direction of the occupied Golan Heights, targeted the outskirts of the capital, Damascus.
The Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria said that the fighter jets launched six GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs, two of which were intercepted by Syrian Buk-M2E air defense systems. The remaining four hit two warehouses causing material losses only. This was the first such Israeli attack in more than three weeks.
Overall, the recent development shows that the war in Syria is still far from being over. The escalation by terrorists in the northwestern and central regions as well as the Israeli airstrikes on the southern region were likely a response to the country’s recent return to the Arab League and the ongoing normalization talks with Turkey.