The shaky stability established in Syria after the end of the Turkish attack on the Syrian Army in Idlib in February and March of 2020 has collapsed.
Just a day after the confrontation between the US military and the Syrian Army in the province of al-Hasakah, US troops deployed at the Koniko gas fields on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River came under rocket attack. According to local sources, at least 3 unguided rockets fell near US positions. Nonetheless, the attack led to no casualties.
A few hours earlier, two combat drones of the US military crashed in Idlib. Just ahead of the incident, pro-militant sources claimed that they had shot down 2 Russian drones in the area. Nonetheless, photos and videos from the ground immediately revealed that at least one of the crashed drones was an MQ-9 Reaper. Later, US media citing defense officials reported that the US lost two MQ-9 Reapers in a midair collision over Idlib. Many Syrian sources immediately linked the incident with the use of electronic warfare systems on US combat drones in the area.
On the same day, a Russian major-general was killed and two service members were injured after an improvised explosive device hit their convoy near the Al-Taim oil field, about 15 km outside the city of Deir Ezzor. The killed major-general was identified as Vyacheslav Gladkih. He served as Deputy Commander of the 36th Combined-Arms Army. In Syria, he was serving as an adviser to the Syrian Arab Army.
Recently, ISIS significantly increased the number of attacks on Syrian pro-government forces in the provinces of Homs and Deir Ezzor. The terrorist group is especially active near the cities of Deir Ezzor and Mayadin. It could be suggested that the group of Russian advisers was there to discuss the current situation in the area with its Syrian counterparts.
On August 19, local sources reported the simultaneous increase of military activity in the provinces of Idlib, Hasakah and Deir Ezzor. In Idlib, 3 Turkish military convoys crossed the border and moved towards the contact line between militants and the Syrian Army south of the M4 highway. Just recently, a joint Turkish-Russian patrol came under attack there, but Ankara is still set to protect al-Qaeda terrorists hiding there at any cost. In al-Hasakah, the Syrian Army is reinforcing it’s positions near Tell Tamr and in the countryside of al-Qamishli. In the provinces of Deir Ezzor, the Syrian Army and the National Defense Forces conducted several raids near the cities of Deir Ezzor and al-Mayadin. The recent series of ISIS attacks on positions of pro-government forces, including the death of a Russian major-general, will likely lead to a larger united effort of Syrian and Russian forces to track and eliminate the ISIS cells that still hide in the desert.
The conflict in Syria seems to have all chances to once again enter a hot phase with the provinces of al-Hasakah and Idlib being the main points of possible confrontation of foreign forces deployed in the country. At the same time, the ISIS threat in the central Syrian desert also remains an important destabilizing factor.