Syrian government forces have cleared the entire western countryside of Aleppo city of members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other Turkish-backed armed groups.
During the past week, the Syrian Army and its allies cleared up to 300km2 delivering a devastating blow to members of Idlib armed groups despite the fierce Turkish support to them and even the direct participation of Turkish forces in clashes. On February 15, the Syrian Army opened a new front in western Aleppo attacking Turkish-led forces from the both southern and northern directions. By the evening of February 16, the entire western countryside of Aleppo was captured by pro-government forces. Idlib armed groups demonstrated no real resistance to pro-government forces.
During the past months, Turkey supplied them with lots of military equipment and weapons, including MANPADs. Members of Turkish-backed armed groups even shot down 2 Syrian helicopters, but this appeared to be not enough to stop the advance of the Syrian Army.
According to pro-government sources, at least 60 members of Idlib militant groups were killed and up to 10 pieces of military equipment were destroyed in recent clashes in southeastern Idlib and western Aleppo.
According to the Russian side, the Turkish Armed Forces recently deployed 70 battle tanks, 200 armored vehicles and 80 howitzers in Greater Idlib. A large part of Turkish-deployed military equipment appears in the hands of Idlib radicals. Russian media reported that at least 20 Turkish-supplied vehicles had been destroyed.
The major setbacks in eastern Idlib and western Aleppo forces militant supporters to invent some victories in the media sphere.
Syrian opposition activists claimed on February 14 that a drone attack had targeted the Russian Hmeimim Air Base in Syria killing several generals of the Russian Armed Forces. The opposition sources provided no photo or video evidence to confirm these claims. However, names of the supposed Russian casualties promoted by various sources correspond with Russian historic personalities and even cinema actors. The most fierce supporters of Idlib groups even claimed that the UAV attack on Hmeimim destroyed an S-400 air defense system.
The Syrian Army advance in Greater Idlib comes amid multiple condemnations by NATO member states. If the military bloc really wants to change the situation in the region, it should consider using Article 5 to protect its Al Qaeda allies in Greater Idlib. If not, it always can claim that the defeat of terrorists in Idlib is a humanitarian catastrophe and impose more sanctions on Syria and its allies.