Militant groups in the province of Idlib have started an active phase of preparations to counter an expected advance of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the area.
On July 29, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra), Jabhat Tahrir Suriya (formerly Ahrar al-Sham), the National Front for Liberation, the Turkistan Islamic Party, Horas al-Din and some other groups created a new operations room to coordinate their military actions against the SAA.
On the same day reports appeared that leaders of Idlib militants and Turkish officials met in the Turkish capital of Ankara to discuss the future of Idlib. Turkey, as one of the main backers of militants in the province, is deeply concerned by the upcoming SAA operation because the defeat of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Jabhat Tahrir Suriya and other groups there will boost positions of the Damascus government and decrease the Turkish influence in northwestern Syria.
In southern Syria, the SAA continued its operation against ISIS liberating the town of Abidin and nearby points east of the Golan Heights. Government forces also advanced on the ISIS-held town of al-Shajarah. If the SAA liberates it, only 4 relatively large settlements will remain in the hands of terrorists there.
Meanwhile, members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the Free Syrian Army in the province of Quneitra handed over two upgraded T-55 battle tanks, a BRDM-2 amphibious armored patrol vehicle, a 2S1 Gvozdika 122 mm self-propelled howitzer, a M-46 130mm towed field gun and several vehicles armed with machineguns of different calibers the SAA under a previously reached surrender agreement.
On July 28 and July 29, ISIS members carried out two attacks against the SAA in the eastern part of the province of Deir Ezzor. Main clashes took place near the towns of Hasrat and al-Majaudah, in which the SAA allegedly suffered some casualties. However, all the attacks were repelled.
Currently, the Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance is focused on combating radical armed groups in the southern part of the country. According to Syrian leadership and local sources, as soon as this operation is finished, the SAA will start preparing for operations against the remaining cells of ISIS in the central desert and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham-led forces in the province of Idlib.
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*All posts on behalf of South Front are made by Gordon Duff