On Thursday, the Syrian armed opposition thwarted a major attack by regime forces and pro-Iran militias in the eastern countryside of Idleb province, in retaliation to a surprise rebel attack that left 22 elite troops dead, military source told Zaman al-Wasl.
The Iranian militias attacked rebels west of Abu Dhur town, seeking to advance in the eastern countryside, but rebels were able to thwart the attack, leaving dozens killed and wounded, according to the source.
Wednesday’s dawn attack targeted a post occupied by the regime’s elite Tiger Force and Iranian militias near the town of al-Mshairfah, east of Idleb city.
The Tiger Force led by Brig. Gen. Suheil al-Hassan, a Russian-backed Syrian officer who has taken credit for some of the biggest regime victories during the almost nine-year conflict.
But he has not succeeded in breaking Idleb’s defenses, which remain deadlocked. According to opposition activists, elite forces from the Republican Guard and the Fourth Division, led by Assad’s younger brother, Maher, have recently started taking part in the Idleb offensive, AP reported.
The regime army has been pressing to take strategic territory located between Idleb and Lattakia province to cut the main supply route and to weaken the unprecedented resistance by rebels.
Russia claims that rebels on Idleb battlefronts have killed 1,500 Syrian troops and allied militants.
In turn, Syrian warplanes stepped up aerial bombardments on Thursday, hitting an array of villages in the eastern countryside.
The Idleb region, home to around 3 million people, including many displaced by Syria’s eight-year civil war, is controlled by the country’s former al-Qaeda affiliate.
Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham also controls parts of neighboring Aleppo and Lattakia provinces where battles with regime forces have also recently taken place.
The region is one of the last holdouts of opposition to the forces of Bashar al-Assad.
A ceasefire announced by Russia in late August has reduced violence in the area.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that nearly 1,000 civilians were killed in that period, and the UN says that more than 400,000 people were displaced.
Bashar al-Assad, who now controls around 60 percent of the country, has vowed to reclaim the rest, including Idleb and small pockets in Lattakia.
This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.