Regime forces continue to shell Idlib as messages to Turkey and locals

Injured people by the Syrian regime forces’ shelling of the main market in Idlib city - December 30, 2023 (Syria Civil Defense)

Injured people by the Syrian regime forces’ shelling of the main market in Idlib city - December 30, 2023 (Syria Civil Defense)

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Hardly a day passes for the inhabitants of Idlib and the western countryside of Aleppo without artillery or missile shelling by the Syrian regime forces and its allied militias, supported by the incessant airstrikes of the Russian air force on the area.

In a continuous scenario over 12 years and within a systematic policy, the year 2024 started bloodily in northern Syria, and death loomed over several neighborhoods in Idlib and the countryside of Aleppo. The toll of casualties due to the shelling by the regime forces on the city of Darat Azza, and the villages of Bureij Heidar and Kabashin in the western countryside of Aleppo, rose to six civilian deaths, and 11 injured individuals, as of the 1st of January of the current year.

The casualties are distributed among three fatalities in the city of Darat Azza, two in the village of Bureij Heidar, and a woman in the village of Kabashin. Four civilians in Darat Azza were injured, including a child and an infant, while two children, two women, and two men in the village of Kabashin were injured. A child in the village of Bureij Heidar was also injured and sustained severe wounds in a non-final toll.

On December 31, 2023, eight civilians in the city of Idlib were injured following a missile shelling carried out by the regime forces, preceded by the deaths of four, including a child, and the injury of 15 others, as the regime forces targeted the main market in the city of Idlib.

Five civilians from a single family (a man, his wife, and three of their children) were killed, and another child was injured and was the sole survivor of his family in a massacre by the Russian warplanes that targeted a house in Alata farm near the town of Armanaz, west of Idlib, on December 25, 2023.

On the same day, a civilian was killed, and five others were injured, including three children, due to a missile shelling by the regime forces targeting civilian homes, the rural school, public facilities, and agricultural lands in the city of Sarmin in the eastern countryside of Idlib.

A bloody year, “continuation of criminality”

The Syria Civil Defense teams have responded to over 1,276 attacks by the regime forces, Russia, and their allied militias since the beginning of 2023 until December 24 of the same year, resulting in the deaths of 160 people, including 46 children and 23 women, and the injury of 688 individuals, including 218 children and 96 women.

The military analyst Colonel Abduljabbar al-Akidi considered the recent escalation in the Idlib area in the past few days as a “continuation of the criminality” of the Syrian regime and the Iranian militias supporting it for more than ten years, pointing out that the escalation is expected at any moment towards the northern areas.

Al-Akidi told Enab Baladi that whenever the regime and the Iranian militias are hit by a painful Israeli or American strike, the response is always directed towards civilians in Idlib and the countryside of Aleppo. This is not new, he added, noting that the regime officials, led by Faisal Mekdad, have stated that the response to Israeli strikes will be in Idlib because the enemy is one according to their opinion.

On October 12, 2023, the Ministry of Defense in the regime government considered the shelling of the Damascus and Aleppo airports by Israel as part of a “continuous approach in support of the extremist terrorist groups that the Syrian army is fighting in northern Syria, which form an armed arm of the Israeli entity (referring to the Syrian opposition forces).”

An injured person by the Syrian regime forces’ shelling of the main market in Idlib city - December 30, 2023 (Syria Civil Defense)

An injured person by the Syrian regime forces’ shelling of the main market in Idlib city – December 30, 2023 (Syria Civil Defense)

Targeting vital locations

Despite the cessation of military operations from battles and the opening of fronts, and the submission of northwestern Syria to the Moscow agreement signed between Russia and Turkey since March 2020, the area is subject to almost daily shelling, but with no change in the control map.

The political activist Abdul Karim al-Omar told Enab Baladi that the intervening parties in the Syrian file, whether at the international or local level, do not want to change the current situation, pointing out that the escalation has not stopped, as the shelling continues near the points close to the conflict lines.

Al-Omar noted that what is noticeable in the current escalation is the focus of the targeting on areas and neighborhoods in the middle of the city of Idlib, which were not frequently shelled in the past, such as the main market and the al-Kura roundabout in the city center.

He added that the regime’s recent targeting aims at “hitting vital locations” inside the city of Idlib and that it does not need any pretext for shelling, as the “de-escalation zone” is constantly targeted and the war zone still persists.

Al-Omar pointed out that the regime can, in an instant, disrupt civilian life in Idlib, as it is currently doing, as the area remains in a state of war as long as there is no ceasefire under international sponsorship.

He indicated that the operations of opposition factions against the regime forces are in uninhabited areas, and the regime is not affected by them. It is capable of disrupting the movement of the population in Idlib by merely shelling the area with a single missile launcher.

The “Al-Fath Al-Mubin” operation room, which manages the military operations in Idlib, responds to the escalation by targeting the regime forces’ points near the contact lines, in addition to carrying out “infiltration” operations behind the lines.

Messages to Turkey and the North

With each escalation, attention turns to Turkey, as it is considered a guarantor of the ceasefire and possesses military bases and points in northern Syria. The number of its military sites in the Idlib areas is 51.

The political analyst Dr. Bassel al-Maarawi considered that the escalation is a qualitative escalation and a message to the upcoming elections in Turkey and a message to the areas outside its control, stating that no investment, stability, or any qualitative leap better than in its controlled areas can be made, as long as its missiles are capable of reaching any area it desires.

Al-Maarawi told Enab Baladi that the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, may, behind the escalation, seek to restore the prestige lost significantly in the past few days due to the Israeli air force targeting the southern region of Syria and the Damascus and Aleppo airports.

Al-Maarawi does not rule out the daring of the regime forces and the Iranian militias to shell the cities of Azaz, al-Bab, and Jarablus in the northern countryside of Aleppo, to disrupt the stability of the region, if there is no strong Turkish deterrent.

Suicide drones

The regime forces have recently intensified the use of suicide drones to target cars and motorcycles in towns near the contact lines amid fears of the expansion of the shelling to include points deep within the opposition-controlled areas.

The Syria Civil Defense stated that the regime forces are pursuing a new approach by targeting civilians in northwestern Syria, primarily using drones to shell farmers.

Commenting on the use of drones, Colonel Abduljabbar al-Akidi told Enab Baladi that the battle previously included the use of drones by the regime forces and the Iranian militias, but for “reconnaissance” purposes.

He explained that the regime has recently started to use suicide drones as a replacement for not being able to use its drones or fighter aircraft after being banned from flying in the area where there are Turkish bases. This is a result of the understandings of “Astana” and “Sochi,” which came after the targeting of the Turkish base in Jabal al-Zawiya and the killing of about 30 Turkish soldiers in 2020.

Booby-trapped drones are used as a means of attack or targeting, usually carrying explosives, and are directed towards specific targets by a remote control system that allows the operator to guide and control it and target objectives.

According to al-Akidi, they are characterized by their effectiveness and low cost, as they are less costly than the cost of flying fighter aircraft. They are an effective weapon in modern warfare, capable of achieving precise hits, as they are directed under the gaze of the military from their launch until they reach the target and cannot be detected except by the naked eye or through sound.

 

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