The Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the National Defense Forces (NDF), the Tiger Forces and other pro-government factions, supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces, have achieved a notable progress against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) in southern Idlib.
Government troops have liberated the villages of Rajmel Mashraf, Umm Sehrij, Dreibiyeh, Mashrafat al Khanazir, Ard az-Zurzur, Sham al-Hawa, Umm al-Khalakhil, Qulayat at Tuwaybah and Niha and deployed within 7km from the militant-held town of Sinjar. The SAA reportedly lost at least one battle tank and an armoured vehicle in the clashes.
Sinjar is located on the Hama-Aleppo highway, within about 15 km from the Abu al-Duhur airbase, which is the target of the ongoing military operation of the SAA, according to many experts.
The SAA, the NDF and the Qalamun Shield Forces, led by units of the Republican Guard, are preparing for an operation to lift the Ahrar al-Sham siege from the Armoured Vehicles Base in Damascus’ Eastern Ghouta.
According to pro-government sources, the operation will be led by General Juma’a al-Jasim and could include an effort to capture the entire area of Harasta.
Meanwhile, clashes also erupted north of al-Nashabiyah where the SAA entered the village of Ayn Zuriqa. Fighting is ongoing there.
In Western Ghouta, the SAA and the NDF have established control over the Beit Jinn pocket. Now, government forces are securing the recently liberated areas.
On January 2, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) resumed their efforts to isolate the ISIS-held town of Hajin in the Euphrates Valley. By January 4, the SDF had captured the villages of Abu Hardub, al-Rifai, al-Mohamdiyah, al-Majid and Ard al-Zir. According to pro-SDF sources, 38 ISIS members were killed and at least two armoured vehicles belonging to the group were destroyed in the period.
Hajin remains the key ISIS strong point on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. While ISIS controls it, the group is able to operate in a large chunk of the Euphrates bank between Hajin and the Iraqi border.
The Russian daily Kommersant reported on January 3 that Russia’s Khmeimim air base was shelled by militants on December 31. According to Kommersant, four Su-24 attack aircraft, two Su-35S multi-role fighters and one An-72 transport aircraft were damaged or destroyed as a result of the shelling. The daily added that 9 service members may received injures.
On January 4, the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed mortar attack by “a mobile militant subversive group” on Khmeimim air base and the death of 2 military servicemen, but denied any equipment damage.
Earlier, the ministry said in a statement that on the same day a Russian Mi-24 helicopter crashed due to a technical fault near the Syrian Hama military airfield. Both pilots died. The engineer got injuries and the rescue team sent him to Khmeimim, where he received necessary assistance. The statement denied that the helicopter had come under fire.