Syrian Army’s Creeping Offensive On Idlib. Neverending Ceasefires Explained

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Syrian Army’s Creeping Offensive On Idlib. Neverending Ceasefires Explained

A new ceasefire in the Greater Idlib region of northwestern Syria started on January 12, at 00:01 local time. The ceasefire, once again brokered by Turkey and Russia, followed a series of successful advances by pro-government forces in southern Idlib. Just a few hours after start of the ceasefire, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly the official branch of al-Qaeda in Syria) and its supposedly ‘moderate’ counterparts shelled Aleppo city, targeting the districts of Shahba, al-Khalidiyah, al-Neil, al-Sabeel and Tishreen. At least 3 civilians were killed and 5 others – injured.

Despite this, the Syrian Army halted all of its offensive operations and air and artillery bombing campaigns against militants’ military infrastructure across Greater Idlib. Now, government troops open fire only in response to attacks by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies. They, in coordination with the Russian Reconciliation Center, also opened three humanitarian corridors (Al-Hobait – in southern Idlib, Abu Duhur – in southeastern Idlid, and Al-Hadher – in southwestern Aleppo) allowing civilians to leave the militant-controlled areas. The Idlib ‘opposition’ reacted by establishing own checkpoints near the corridors and imposing an unofficial tax for every persons that want to leave.

The new ceasefire effort caused a strong negative reaction among supporters of a military solution of the Idlib militants question. They reasonably say that the peace cannot be achieved in this part of Syria as long as al-Qaeda-style groups like Hayat Tahrir al-Sham dominate there. So, if Turkish-backed ‘moderate rebels’ cannot separate from al-Qaeda, they should face a military operation. In own turn, supporters of Idlib armed groups claim the army, Russia and Iran were just scared by their military might or, another version, the ceasefire is just another form of aggression because it allows civilians to leave Idlib, thus removing ‘human shields’ from the area. However, it seems that all these are a part of the larger trend.

Since the establishment of the Idlib de-escalation zone in September 2018, there have been 3 notable army operations against radical militants:

  • The April-June 2019 offensive, when government troops liberated Kafr Nabudah town and a number of nearby villages in northwestern Hama;
  • The August offensive that led to the liberation of Khan Shaykhun and nearby areas in southern Idlib;
  • The November-December operation in southern Idlib in the framework of which around 30 villages and settlements were liberated, and the army deployed in a striking distance from Maarat al-Numan, another key militant stronghold on the M5 highway.

All of these operations ended and even were interrupted by a number of temporary ceasefires. In general, the loop looked the next way:

  • Turkey, Russia, Damascus and the Turkish-backed ‘opposition’ agree on de-escalation efforts and the separation of “terrorists” and “moderate rebels”;
  • “Moderate rebels” do not separate from “terrorists”. Attacks on army positions across the contact line continue. Leaders of Idlib militant groups claim that the ‘bloody Assad regime’ is terrified and vow to crush the regime and its supporters;
  • The army and the Russian Reconciliation Center open humanitarian corridors allowing civilians to leave Greater Idlib. Militants try to prevent this sabotaging the effort. Despite this, some people leave;
  • Government forces launch an offensive delivering a blow to militants and liberating a notable chunk of territory;
  • The ‘international community’ and mainstream media report about numerous atrocities of the army against forces of the young Idlib democracy. Turkey and Russia agree on another ceasefire. The situation repeats.

At the first look this approach looks contrary to a straight logic. It is hard to imagine that somebody believes that the real ceasefire and political settlement is possible with al-Qaeda as one of the key powerbrokers on the ground. Nonetheless, it leads to apparent results: more and more civilians are being evacuated from Idlib and the Syrian Army liberates more and more areas. During the December offensive, even Hayat Tahrir al-Sham supporters had a suspicious that something was going wrong. In these conditions the main question is that how many such ceasefires will be needed to get rid of all radicals in the region?

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  • MADE MAKER

    One day Syria will Rid it`s Country of all TERRORIST and OIL THIEF`s . And start to Re-build and Unite the Syrian people

    • The Man

      oh, right… ok! and your point regarding this article… is… exactly what???

      • Red Pilled ThoughtCrimes

        the ceasefires explained…. did you not rad the headline?
        each ceasefire is allowing more and more civilians to leave the area, and each ceasefire is after Syrian gains in their idlib offensive

        at the same time tho Turkey are moving terrorists from idlib through into libya to back the GNA

        they leave under the tahrir harat al sham or whatever they are called, and then fight under the ISIS banner in libya. (i support of western backed GNA)

        • The Man

          oh, right… ok! and your point regarding this article… is… exactly what???

  • cynic

    Slowly salami slicing Idlib. Faster progress might inspire the Turks or Americans to vigorous retaliation. ‘Slowly, slowly catchee monkey…’

    • Z.P.

      Agree.

  • Karen Bartlett

    Go Syria, go Russia, go Iran and Hezbollah!

  • John Wallace

    Nothing much explained at all apart from what was obviously happening . So time to forget the waffle and open up the highway

  • Vollkrassmann

    I don’t like those ceasefires. I’d rather see the SAA and friends going forward, step by step. Ceasefires have always been misused by the headchoppers to create new strategies and renew the arsenals (powered by whom???) Which all means prolongation of the whole bloodshed in Syria.

    • quackery

      I agree with you, but the SAA has always managed to liberate territory despite these seemingly useless ceasefires be implemented. If these ceasefires mean that Turkey doesn’t get further involved, then it is a necessary evil to accept. The terrorists get more time to regroup and re-arm but so does the SAA. It’s all good. 2020 should see the liberation of Maarat al Numan and Saraqib and the surrounding areas. 2021 should see the liberation of all the Idlib areas.

      • Vollkrassmann

        Your words in God’s ears…
        May it happen that we will see the success of the “peacemakers” in Syria and elsewhere…

      • goingbrokes

        Agreed. But it’s not like the jihadists will defend Idlib to the last square metre. Already Turkey is shipping out fighters to other countries, leaving less to defend Idlib, and there will be tipping point soon when the AQ rule in Idlib is simply untenable and a general collapse will follow. It could be soon. After every SAA offensive that reclaims huge chinks of land there have been panicked people running towards Turkey. It can’t last much longer, but the masters behind the scenes in other countries are insisting that appearances are kept up as long as possible.

    • Red Pilled ThoughtCrimes

      it allows civilians to escape, once you kill the terrorists, their families usually are allowed to leave, many didnt want to be there in the first place, hunger and threats forced a lot of people to join ISIS in the end.

      only other opstion is a USA style offensive such as raqqa or Mosul

  • Hide Behind

    Few things ongoing besides just military activity, gotta be a lot of chit chat between Turkey, Israel, Saudis’, Jordan, NATO, UAE and US, all looking for a political solution, and Syria is but a role player doing its best to survive.
    For one thing Turkey is not committing full bore military conflict resolution for its Syrian buffer zone, as it hasnaval troop protecting its food and supplies to Qtar, and a very large military force in Libya.
    Turkey buys non NATO weaponry, which is supposedly a breaking of NATO Alliance rules and is in partnership with Eastern Europes Nations attempt to end Libya seperation and restore oil to Europe and drawing closer to France which is in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and aiding US military operations in Africa.
    US military is upping its strength in what they term US Military Occupied Terriytory.
    Syria is fast becoming a backwater low level conflict no different than operations ongoing in Africa, a calm just before a real storm.
    Who is acting as a liaison between. the terrorist groups and majors, and what guarantees are being given terrorist leaders come time for them to leave?
    How many of various terrorist got free rides, funding and arms to Afghanistan, estimated 2500-4000,, to Libya, now almost 1000, Phillipines 1800 and small under 100 members per group now in over 18 African Nations?
    There are reports of ISIS groups now in Central Asia, SE Asia along triangle of Laos Cambodia Thailand, and along Russia and China’s borders.

  • U.S.CONGRESS MUST REMOVE OUR TROOPS OUT OF IRAQ & SYRIA NOW

    By removing our troops out of Iraq calms down Iran.

    By removing our troops out of Syria allows Syrian Armed Forces, Russia and the other Syria allies to round up all terrorist gangster factions and their families throughout Syria’s real estate of 185,180 sq km, and find out who are actually Syrian citizens and who are not for documentation purposes and real estate ownership confirmation.

    All terrorist gangster factions must go to jail for all the crimes they committed. Assad seems to offer leniency, but I won’t. They destroyed a country, people’s lives, etc.

    Syrian Armed Forces, Russia and the other Syria allies must have “strict” law enforcement all along Syria’s border to stop any more infiltration of terrorist gangsters coming across the border via other countries.

    I send out more prayers to Assad, Syrian Armed Forces, Russia and the other Syria allies, and to all the decent Syrian people that just want to live in peace, that soon all of Syria will be liberated.

  • Rodney Loder

    Allah (swt) is getting through in spite of Fate and the radicals are able to understand that.
    However while the forces accompanying Allah’s Ambition (swt) are not willing to endourse the reality in which they exist, and while the SAA refuse to recognize my claim to be the Messiah it’s unlikely the rebels will feel any need to be remorseful in any way at all..

  • Willing Conscience (The Truths

    LOL, who the hell out there is stupid enough to believe this gobsmackingly pitiful explanation, they must think we’re all morons.
    Some of us are fully aware that there are stipulations on just how far the SAA and Russia can go before they upset the world community,
    They can legally concentrate on the designated terrorists [HTS/Al Nusra], but can’t attack officially recognised opposition groups [SNA/NLF/SLF/FSA], unless attacked first of course.
    They can’t endanger the civilian population unnecessarily and they can’t use CW.
    But they don’t have to keep starting and stopping the fighting to avoid any of the above conditions, the only thing these ceasefires do is to delay the [eventual and totally unavoidable no matter what they do] flood of refugees to the Turkish border, that’s the only thing these repeated ceasefires do.
    Here’s some more truth for the hard headed to swallow,
    Even if the SAA do take back control of Syria non militarily, and Assad does agree to give complete amnesty to all non criminal elements, and the international community is more than happy with the way things are done, THERE WILL STILL BE A HUGE ELEMENT OF THE IDLIB POPULATION THAT WILL STILL WANT TO GO TO TURKEY, and that’s not to even mention the thousands of foreign Jihadists that’ll have nowhere to go.
    So even at a best case scenario there’ll still be a flood of refugees, but instead of being tomorrow or the day after, it’ll be in 2, 3, 5, or maybe even 10 years, but it’ll still happen, and instead if it being a million people at the border, it’ll only be a quarter, a half or maybe even three quarters of a million, WOW.
    Get real SF this is just pure propaganda, I doubt even your most biased die hard supporters will swallow this piece of trash.
    Erdogan’s only managed to get 6 more months of UN aid for the Idlib population, and it’s been restricted to just two delivery points, so I suspect he’s using that timeframe to convince Putin, that Turkey will be able to solve the refugee problem itself if given the full 6 months to do it, and this ceasefire will be the mechanism for Erdogan to fulfil his commitment.
    But the Astana agreements were mechanisms that allowed Erdogan to do exactly the same thing and now we’re up to Astana number 15, so I don’t trust Erdogan. And even if he’s promised Putin he’d give up Syria and concentrate on Libya, I still wouldn’t trust him to stick to a 6 months time frame.
    Go SAA and SAAF, get the refugees moving again, the delays are actually doing more harm than good now, the corridors didn’t work too well as we expected they wouldn’t, but the UN’s ‘nearly’ happy again so let’s get back to the business of winning the war, with or without Russia’s help, JUST BE EXTRA CAREFUL NOT TO ACCIDENTALLY HIT CIVILIANS.