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Sarmin front in Idlib.. al-Assad regime threatens of duplication of Eastern Ghouta scenario

Syrian regime forces on the outskirts of Maarat al-Numan - 28 January 2020 (ANNA)

Syrian regime forces on the outskirts of Maarat al-Numan - 28 January 2020 (ANNA)

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Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime backed by Russian forces continues to make advances into the rural areas of Idlib and Aleppo provinces. Al-Assad is determined to fully re-capture the strategic M5 international highway and its communication node in the rebel-held city of Saraqib. 

The Syrian regime forces seek to control  Saraqib, which has been surrounded by the Turkish Armed Forces through four observation posts.

Saraqib is under Turkish protection… Ankara’s message to Moscow

Based on the variables in events, the regime forces headed deep into the southern countryside of Idlib to the town of Sarmin. The regime is re-establishing the same scenario of Eastern Ghouta by following a divide-and-conquer strategy; the regime forces will divide the rebel-held territory in northern Syria into parts, which facilitates control over them.

The colonel and military analyst Ahmed Hamadeh, in an interview with Enab Baladi on 5 February, said that the Syrian regime with Russian support is trying to breach the Sarmin front, to divide the area into east and west. Thus, the Syrian regime will renew the scenario developed in  Eastern Ghouta. Hamadeh pointed out that the Syrian government will take this step after flattening the land in the area in its military attacks.

In addition, Hamadeh ruled out an agreement that allows the regime to expand its control in rural Idlib at the expense of the opposition factions in the southern and western countryside of Aleppo.

Hamadeh highlighted that if the Syrian regime managed to take control of  Sarmin, it would continue to advance north to the cities of Binnish and Taftanaz to cut off the transit road between Idlib and rural Aleppo.

Abdul Jabbar al-Oqaidi, the dissident colonel in the Syrian Arab Amy, tweeted on 4 February, that “the advancement of the Syrian regime towards Sarmin indicates either dumbness in the military tactics this is unlikely because those who plan al-Assad’s operations are Russian military experts or there is a security agreement, protecting the Syrian regime forces from someone.”

The battlefronts in the southern countryside of Idlib have seen an accelerated advance of the regime forces; in the past few days and weeks, they re-took control of more than 30 towns and cities, the most important of which is the strategic city of Maarat al-Numan. 

The shape of battles

The field reality in the fronts of the western Aleppo countryside differs from the ones in the Idlib countryside. The Syrian regime launched a military offensive in rural Aleppo on 26 January. However, the government was unable to advance significantly in the area because the opposition factions repelled its attack and conducted on 1 February 2020 a military operation inside the regime-controlled areas in Al-Zahra neighborhood of Aleppo.

The Syrian regime intensified its military offensive in rural Aleppo on the axes of the seed multiplication areas, Journalists, al-Rashdeen, Khan Toman, al- Qarasi, Khalsa. 

In the last few days, the regime managed to control some of the axes.

The official spokesman of the Turkey-backed National Liberation Front (NLF), Captain Naji Mustafa, told Enab Baladi earlier that the NLF will stave off the Syrian regime’s progress in new areas in rural Aleppo.

Mustafa pointed out that the opposition factions were able to repel the attacks of the regime forces and their loyal militias, causing them losses, describing them as significant in lives and equipment.

Regarding the comparison between the Idlib and Aleppo battles, Colonel Ahmed Hamadeh said that fighting taking place in Idlib between the opposition and regime forces are not “classic,” especially with the factions losing their defensive lines, referring to the strategic cities of Maarat al-Numan and Khan Sheikhoun.

Hamadeh pointed out that what is happening in Idlib is only attacks carried out against the regime forces in retaliation, as happened two days ago in the town of Nayrab, west of the city of Saraqib, according to Hamadeh.

Moreover, Hamadeh added that the opposition factions have no weapons to stop the Russian-backed attack, at the rate of 200 airstrikes per day and hundreds of rockets and artillery shells.

In conclusion, Hamadeh highlighted that the opposition factions could set up ambushes and raids to block the progress of the Syrian regime forces, but that, according to Hamadeh, needs a central command that directs troops and weapons deliberately and scientifically to force the regime to restore its calculations.

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