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On August 1, ISIS attacked the government-held airbase of Khalkhalah in the province of al-Suwayda. Initially, the terrorists, including suicide bombers, were able to enter the airbase, but the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) repelled the attack after a few hours of clashes.
The ISIS-linked news agency Amaq claimed that more than 45 SAA soldiers and officers were killed and 2 warplanes and 6 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) of the Syrian Air Force were destroyed during the clashes inside the base.
However, a source in the airbase told SouthFront that Amaq’s claims are false. According to the source, the SAA lost four SAA troops and the Syrian Air Force lost no aircraft.
The ISIS attack was carried out from the terrorist group’s hideouts in eastern al-Suwayda. The SAA responded to the attack with artillery and airstrikes on identified ISIS positions and reportedly sent reinforcements to the area.
According to local sources and experts, a large SAA operation to purge ISIS cells in the area may be launched very soon.
Meanwhile, reports appeared that the Damascus government is negotiating with some ISIS representatives to free 30 women and children that were captured by the terrorists during the July 25 attack on the provincial capital and nearby villages.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), ISIS is demanding that about 100 ISIS members captured by the SAA in southwestern Syria had to be freed and allowed, with their families, to withdraw via an open corridor to eastern al-Suwayda. No official confirmation of these reports is available. The situation remains unclear.
Turkish-backed militant groups– the National Front for Liberation, the Syrian Liberation Front, the Suqour al-Sham Brigades, Jaysh al-Ahrar and the Damascus Gathering – merged forming a new faction in northwestern Syria. The faction is branding itself as a fully new group, but it’s name is the National Front for Liberation.
Experts say that this move is the recent in a series of Turkish efforts to create some united force capable of competing with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) in the province of Idlib. This move is likely an attempt to prevent a possible SAA military operation in the province, which will be launched under the pretext of combating Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).
Now, using the NFL, Ankara is able to claim that it’s contributing efforts to combat HTS in Idlib and that no operation is needed in the area because all is going in the framework of the Astana agreements. The situation is developing.