‘Inghimasi’ attacks decline in Idlib: Logistic shortage or political tactic?

Two Tahrir al-Sham fighters operating in the Red Bands Brigades prior to the “Inghimasi” operation in the countryside of Latakia, northwestern Syria - February 26, 2023 (Amjad Agency)

Two Tahrir al-Sham fighters operating in the Red Bands Brigades prior to the “Inghimasi” operation in the countryside of Latakia, northwestern Syria - February 26, 2023 (Amjad Agency)


Enab Baladi – Hassan Ibrahim

After it recorded remarkable activity targeting the Syrian regime forces in northwestern Syria, the pace of the “Inghimasi” shock offensive operations carried out by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) against the Syrian regime forces decreased during the past three months.

The “Inghimasi” is considered to be the highest title a fighter can earn, which is when one is sent on a mission against the “enemy” and not expected to return.

The HTS Inghimasi mission usually took place behind the contact lines of the HTS-held areas in Idlib city, part of the western countryside of Aleppo, the countryside of Latakia, and the al-Ghab Plain northwest of Hama.

Operations behind the lines did not stop, but they declined after their number reached 27 “Inghimasi” operations from the end of September 2022 until mid-April, the highest number of operations of this kind carried out by the HTS in the northwestern region since the Moscow ceasefire agreement on March 5, 2020, that was brokered by the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Almost two months since last Inghimasi attack

The most recent Inghimasi operation was carried out on May 6 by the fighters of Jaysh al-Nasr affiliated with the al-Fateh al-Mubin Operations Room, which manages the military operations in Idlib, against the positions of the regime forces on the al-Amqiyah axis in al-Ghab Plain, west of Hama city.

Military correspondents accompanying the factions, including Tahrir al-Sham, said that three soldiers were killed and two wounded, and their weapons were seized.

On April 16, the fighters of the HTS-run Abd al-Raḥmān ibnʿAwf Brigade carried out an “Inghimasi” operation against the positions of the regime forces near the village of Basartun in the western countryside of Aleppo.

Tahrir al-Sham did not announce through its media platform “Amjad,” or its affiliate media the recording of injuries or the confiscation of weapons and spoils during that operation, and the reports were limited to broadcasting video recordings by military correspondents of clashes and infiltrations.

The Inghimasi operation of Basartun was preceded by a similar attack carried out by the fighters of the HTS-run Abu Obeida bin al-Jarrah Brigade group on March 31, on regime forces in the al-Dana axis, south of Idlib. The attack left three troops killed, including an officer, and four others wounded.

The HTS mourned Qutaiba Sabaikhan, commander of the “Inghimasiyn” battalion in the operation.

The regime’s official media did not mention the losses among its forces that were announced by the Tahrir al-Sham and pro-regime news accounts, in addition to the obituary publications for members of its forces in the engagement area.

What are “Inghimasi” operations?

The Inghimasis can survive their missions against the “enemy” and return safely to their base.

The Inghimasi attacks are usually carried out by fighters who infiltrated to the regime army points behind the engagement lines. Then, attacking the detachments and clashing with the soldiers and auxiliary forces and seizing their weapons.

Some operations include the bombing of the entire military point building after the end of the operation.

These operations are launched by elite fighters in various brigades affiliated with the HTS, such as the Special Forces, the Red Bands Brigades, the Khaled Ibn al-Walid Brigades, and Unit 82.

Logistical reasons, scene reading

The number of Inghimasi operations during the past three months ranged between one and three operations each month after it recorded its presence and activity, especially at the end of October 2022, between 4 to 6 attacks each month.

Nawar Shaaban, head of the information unit at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies, believes that it is necessary to take into account that the HTS is not a state organization and that it is a de facto force that has a certain organizational capacity, logistical capabilities, and resources to a certain extent, despite the existence of a political umbrella represented by the Syrian Salvation Government (SSG).

Shaaban told Enab Baladi that the decline in “Inghimasi” operations can be attributed to several reasons, including logistical ones, which is an unlikely but possible possibility.

Declining resources is an issue that affects the implementation of military operations and pushes any faction to work within the priorities of military movements, according to Shaaban.

The researcher suggested that the reason for the decline in operations is a military tactic, especially in conjunction with changes in the general political climate with regard to dealing with the Syrian file.

The HTS believes that it is smart to reduce the pace of these operations now, to re-study the active map in the region, and then restart work.

In terms of politics, the path of rapprochement between Turkey and the Syrian regime has been witnessing a state of constant attraction since December 28, 2022.

It officially began with a tripartite meeting of the defense ministers of Turkey, Russia, and the regime in Moscow, as well as the changes taking place in the Arab world, including the presence of Bashar al-Assad in the Arab summit conference in Jeddah on May 19, and the subsequent meetings of officials of the regime and Saudi Arabia.

Shaaban considered that if the orientation changes and there is a general rapprochement with the Syrian regime, the HTS will continue to carry out attacks against Iranian forces and militias in Syria because the region will remain a haven for many militias operating within the areas controlled by the regime.

In the event of a general rapprochement, the researcher rules out that Tahrir al-Sham will carry out operations against the regime forces, but in return, the HTS will increase its attacks on gatherings that are classified as “terrorist” in countries that normalize with the regime.

HTS promises, Map change 

Northwestern Syria is subject to the Moscow agreement signed between Russia and Turkey, and military operations, including battles and opening fronts, have ceased since it was signed on March 5, 2020.

The opposition factions did not carry out any military action that would change the map of control after the agreement, and the operations were limited to fending off infiltration attempts, sniping, and Inghimasi operations.

Any appearance of the HTS leader Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, or senior commanders in the powerful group is accompanied by a talk about “future liberation operations,” and that the battle in the short and long term went in the “interest of the revolution,” and that the battle has costs, and Tahrir al-Sham is ready for it.

The HTS military commander Majd al-Atassi said in a previous statement to Enab Baladi that the map of military control will not be stable until the entire territory of Syria is liberated.

He pointed out that time does not matter as much as preparing for war, and this is what the Tahrir al-Sham has been doing since the last battle stopped in 2020.

Al-Atassi added that military actions should be studied from all sides because they are linked to all aspects of life in the region.

The HTS military leadership seeks to reshape and organize the forces and all specializations and pay attention to the most successful training, with appropriate armament in line with the requirements and developments of the battle, he asserted.

Regarding the future vision of military action in the region, al-Atassi told Enab Baladi that it is not possible to disclose the intentions of military action, but what he can say is that “the military leadership in the region will not accept half-solutions, nor stand in the middle of the road, and that it is doing everything in its power to restore all the usurped lands.”

33 civilians killed in six months

On the other hand, opposition-held areas in northwestern Syria are subjected to almost daily bombardment and Russian air raids at an unstable pace, in conjunction with Russian drones flying over the area daily.

Russia escalated its air strikes from 20 to 26 June and committed a “massacre” in a vegetable market in the city of Jisr al-Shughour, west of Idlib city.

The rescue Syria Civil Defense (SCD) agency has responded to 300 attacks in six months till June 30 in northwestern Syria. The attacks were launched by the regime forces and Russia, and others from areas of the regime forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in addition to drone attacks and explosions.

More than 80 local communities were targeted.

The aggression against northern Syria during the past six months included 241 artillery and missile attacks and seven Russian air strikes, which killed 33 people, including five children, and injured more than 150 people, including more than 30 children and 20 women.

During the year 2022, the Civil Defense documented the killing of 165 people, including 55 children and 14 women.



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