by Jim W. Dean, VT Editor, with Southfront
Editor’s Note : 9:49pm EST: The SAA is advancing once again via a night attack toward the M-5 highway to Aleppp. See map at end of the article…JD ]
– First published … December 20, 2019 –
The SAA and Russian planes sent a clear signal that the hammer was about to fall on stage two of clearing the jihadis out of Idlib with days of 100 airstrikes on their positions after two months of strikes on their equipment depots.
The initial jihadi casualties indicate they do not mean to fight a pitched resistance battle and are leaving sacrificial troops behind as a rear guard or maybe only those killed in the airstrikes and artillery barrages.
We are seeing a new tactic with this Syrian advance via its initial night attacks being staged at dusk with SAA forces going in after a rolling artillery barrage. Russian and Syrian special ops teams plus overhead surveillance, even at night, can call in artillery fire on retreating jihadis especially if they bunch up on the roads.
The memory of having artillery fire rain down on you at night is never forgotten. What we saw in the later stages of the first SAA advance through north Hama into Idlib is the jihadis executing an every vehicle for itself retreat, moving in dispersed fashion off the main roads.
This kills making any kind of a fighting retreat to drain the attacking force down as the jihadi cmdrs do not even know where their people are until they start straggling in to their bases further north, those who have avoided the special ops ambush teams along predicted lines of retreat.
One of the goals of the attacking forces is to display that anyone that tries to hold a defensive line is just going to die, to encourage “early” withdrawals which collapses a defense.
As for the Turkish observation posts, they got a signal that they are no longer protected entities. If they have jihadi firing positions right next to their post they are going to get shelled. We will be hearing from Mr. Erdogan on this soon.
The Syrians have a lot of experience using their artillery in these kinds of attacks now which helps keep the Syrian troop morale up that positions they are attacking have been worked over in advance and that they can always have artillery fire when they need it.
So far we have had no reports of the Jihadis using their past tactic of trying to break up attacks by using VBIEDs (vehicle borne IEDs). Since they have been so effective previously, at this point we can assume that the weeks and weeks of Syrian coalition bombing destroyed the facilities that made and stored these.
I had earlier been concerned about why the SAA did not start this advance before the worst of the winter weather came on, and it may turn out they wanted more time to bomb. Both Syria and Russia want to regain territory at the lowest cost in manpower and they have been honing their combined operations tactics to achieve that.
And lastly, I had expected a more broad east to west line of attack by the SAA because the sooner they had more of the M-5 highway under artillery range the more panic that would cause for those jihadis wanting to gamble a faster exit up the main road.
We will know more as the fighting rolls on right through Christmas.
Update: Here it the current night attack map. The SAA has broadened it attack line further north to put more pressure on the M-5 highway to induce a collapse of jihadi resistance. IF these attacking arrows are accurate it looks like the jihadis have already pulled back and the SAA could have Marat al-Numan within artillery range tomorrow.