Late on March 31, the Israeli Air Force carried out a new round of airstrikes on Syria. Israeli warplanes launched over 12 missiles from Lebanese airspace targeting Shayrat Airbase in the Syrian province of Homs. At least 8 of them were intercepted by the Syrian Air Defense Forces. The damage caused to the airbase by the Israeli strike remains unclear.
Pro-Israeli sources claimed that the attack was aimed at weapon depots and positions of Iranian and Hezbollah forces.
Shayrat Airbase is well known as the point used by the Syrian Air Force to provide air cover for the government forces’ operations against al-Qaeda terrorists in Idlib. Russian attack helicopters also use it as a prestrike staging base. Over the past years, Israeli forces have repeatedly assisted al-Qaeda-linked militants in Syria by striking the country’s armed forces during ongoing important military developments. Syrian sources say that the timing of the new attack indicates an imminent escalation in Greater Idlib, where the Turkish-Russian de-escalation agreement is slowly crumbling.
Early on April 1, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and its supposedly moderate counterparts shelled positions of the Syrian Army near the town of Saraqib, which is located on the crossroad of the M4 and M5 highways. In response, Syrian artillery delivered several strikes on militants’ positions near Afis and Sarmin.
Emboldened by the ceasefire regime and the increasing Turkish military presence in the region, Idlib armed groups are now regularly attacking Syrian Army units in eastern Idlib. Last week, they claimed that they destroyed 3 pieces of military equipment, including a battle tank, with anti-tank guided missiles. Such actions highlight apparent gains from the current format of de-escalation efforts in the region.
ISIS released a video report on its campaign against government forces in the Homs-Deir Ezzor desert during 2019-2020. According to the video, ISIS units continue ambushes of civilian and military vehicles, as well as separate army units, moving along the Palmyra-Deir Ezzor road. Terrorists stage fake check points, loot civilian properties and kill those that they capture. ISIS members demonstrate the mindset of common criminals. The video also shows a few pieces of destroyed military equipment belonging to the Syrian Army.
While the video is designed to serve as a promotion piece of supposed ‘successes’ of the terrorist group, it in fact reveals the current poor state of ISIS cells, which are barely surviving in the Homs-Deir Ezzor desert. If there is no more US-occupied al-Tanf zone where they can hide from Syrian Army security operations, they will have little chance of surviving in this part of Syria for another year.