On January 27 evening, units of the Syrian Army continued their operation in southeastern Idlib. Government troops liberated Hamidiya, Bseida, Maasaran, Tal Al-Shih, Maziyan, and several other villages. By this advance, the army fully besieged Maarat al-Numan from the northern, southern and eastern directions.
According to pro-government sources, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militants are not planning to defend the encircled city for a long time. They are actively planting mines and IEDs in the area. Therefore, even if militants withdraw from Maarat al-Numan via the remaining corridor, government troops will not be able to secure the city immediately.
On January 28, government sources claimed that the Syrian Army had already entered Maarat al-Numan. However, government forces still have to remove IEDs and fortify their new positions.
The Syrian Army offensive in southeastern Idlib is ongoing under the nose of the Turkish observation post near Maarat al-Hat. In the event of further advances by the army, the observation post will likely be encircled by Syrian forces. This will be the third Turkish observation post that faced this fate. The previous two are located near Surman and Morek.
Pro-opposition sources blame Turkey for the recent setbacks of al-Qaeda-linked groups. According to them, Ankara conspired with Moscow in order to undermine the so-called Syrian revolution.
They also claim that the redeployment of members of Turkish-backed militant groups from Syria to Libya undermined the defense of Idlib. On January 26, the Libyan National Army, a rival of the pro-Turkish Libyan Government of National Accord, claims the number of Turkish-backed fighters that were prepared to be deployed to Libya was over 8,000. Earlier, reports appeared that at least 2,400 Turkish proxy fighters had been already sent to Libya.
Another hot point of the battle for Greater Idlib is western Aleppo, where the 4th Armoured Division is engaged in intense fighting with militants. Local sources say that the Aleppo advance is a diversionary strike designed to draw the attention to the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham leadership from Maarat al-Numan and contain reinforcements that it can send to southeastern Idlib.
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*All posts on behalf of South Front are made by Gordon Duff