Hayat Tahrir al-Sham leader Abu Muhammad Al-Joulani received a shell fragment wound to the head in an explosion in Idlib city on February 18 and was evacuated to a hospital in Antakya in the Turkish province of Hatay, Russian state media reported on February 19 citing a Turkish medical source. According to the report, the terrorist group’s leader is in a coma.
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) has not commented on these claims so far. The terrorist organization is currently the most influential “opposition group” within the Idlib de-escalation zone. It controls about 80% of the area despite the fact that it’s formally excluded from the ceasefire regime.
In the countryside of Damacsus, pro-government forces seized a large number of weapons and ammunition, including hundreds of Grad rockets and a large number of US made anti-tank missiles and Israeli 128 mm rockets, in the framework of the ongoing security operation in the area.
On February 19, Israel’s ImageSat International company released a fresh satellite image showing positions of the Syrian military’s S-300 system in the area of Masyaf. According to the provided image and the company’s assessment, three of four S-300 launchers are “probably” operational.
Previous satellite images of Masyaf were released by the same company on February 5. This was the first image showing S-300 launchers in an upright position. Therefore, it was suggested that the Russia-supplied system was becoming operational.
While the ISIS-held pocket in the Euphrates Valley is still not fully eliminated, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have already started preparations for a new round of Syria standoff. Recently, the group released a new statement in which it:
- claimed that it will work to eliminate existing ISIS cells;
- described Turkey as an occupier, but declared readiness to resolve the issues with Ankara via negotiations;
- said that it’s ready for the establishment of a safe area in northeastern Syria under “international supervision”;
- said that it’s ready for negotiations with Damascus, but that the Syrian government should take into account the SDF’s specificity and recognize the “self-declared and effective autonomy in the northeast”;
- and in which it vowed to recapture Afrin.
The content and working of the statement shows that the SDF is no longer expecting a rapid and inevitable US forces withdrawal from the war-torn country. So, it has once again hardened its stance towards other key players and started speaking in the language of ultimatums.
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*All posts on behalf of South Front are made by Gordon Duff