In the second half of the week the military situation in Syria’s western Aleppo escalated.
On April 22, Turkish forces shelled positions of the Syrian Army in western Aleppo. Pro-Turkish sources claimed that this shelling was a response to Syrian Army strikes on positions of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other al-Qaeda-linked groups near the villages of Kafr Amma, al-Qasr, Kafr Taal and Kafr Nouran. Pro-government sources described these strikes however as a defensive measure to counter regular ceasefire violations by Turkish-backed militants.
On April 23, the Syrian Army reinforced its positions east of Atraib by deploying additional troops and equipment there. If Turkish forces and Idlib militants continue attacks on Syrian Army positions in western Aleppo, open military hostilities could resume in the area.
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham executed a 19-yo Syrian refugee deported from Turkey to Greater Idlib. Mohamad Aqib Hamam Tanu was killed on April 20 after militants found that SMS messages in his phone contained criticism of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham leader Abu Mohamad al-Julani.
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham remains the most powerful group in Greater Idlib and controls most of the militant-held area in the region, including Idlib city, the border with Turkey and key positions on the contact line with the Syrian Army. The Turkish leadership in fact provides direct support to the terrorist group by turning a blind eye to its crimes and protecting it from the Syrian Army.
More details appeared about the recent Israeli strike on Syria. According to fresh data, the Israeli strikes targeted a command center of Hezbollah near the town of al-Sukhnah, a training camp of the Iranian-backed Afghan Fatemiyoun Brigade in the al-Tulilah reserve near Palmyra, and a base of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps within the Palmyra Air Base. Despite this, the only confirmed casualties resulting from the strike were 3 Syrian service members.
Pro-government locals intercepted another US military convoy in the province of al-Hasakah. On April 22, locals stopped the US convoy near the town of Farfarah, stoned it and forced US troops to retreat. The incident happened near a Syrian Army checkpoint.
The Asayish security unit of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces commented on the recent clashes with the pro-government National Defense Forces (NDF) in al-Qamishly city. The Kurdish force accused pro-government fighters of destabilizing the situation and threatened them with military action. In their turn, pro-NDF sources claim that the tensions in the city result from the violent behavior of Asayish personnel, who are putting pressure on and discriminating against Arab locals on ethnic grounds.
On April 22, US President Donald Trump said that he has given orders to attack and destroy any fast attack craft of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy that “harass” US warships. Encounters between the IRGC Navy and US warships erupt in the Persian Gulf on a regular basis. All these confrontations have a similar pattern: the US leadership sends warships, including aircraft carriers, to the Persian Gulf describing this as a show of force and a ‘strong message’ to Iran. IRGC fast attack craft deploy to track and monitor the US warships, as well as to prevent any attempts to enter Iranian waters. In response, the US accuses Iran of aggressive actions and provocations.
The most recent incident of this kind happened on April 15 when 11 IRGC Navy fast boats tracked 6 US warships: the USS Lewis B. Puller, USS Paul Hamilton, USS Firebolt, USS Sirocco, USCGC Wrangell and USCGC Maui.
Any US Navy attempts to attack IRGC Navy fast attack craft operating in Iranian or international waters in the Persian Gulf would immediately lead to a new round of military escalation in the region. Just recently, the Iranian military deployed additional coastal defense missile systems near the Straight of Hormuz.