The Syrian army is making substantial gains against the rebel and terrorist forces, recapturing many towns and villages
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Originally Appeared at German Economic News. Translated from German by Susan Neumann
Over the past two days, the Syrian army has almost completely crushed rebel positions in Syria’s Latakia province. The Syrians are advancing towards the Turkish border. Rebel positions are also collapsing all around Aleppo.
Al-Masdar News reported that, on Wednesday afternoon, the Syrian Arab Army’s 43rd Brigade of the 4th Mechanized Division occupied the road linking the towns of Khan al-Assal and Al-Rashiddeen in Aleppo. The army has successfully positioned itself to win back Khan Al-Assal. However, the offensive to both cities will have to wait, because the army is still engaged in active combat against the rebel groups of the Al-Nusra Front, Al-Sham Liwaa Suqour, Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham, and Harakat Al-Zinki Nouriddeen in Al- Rashiddeen. Khan Al-Assal was occupied in 2013 by the Al-Nusra Front and the Free Syrian Army (FSA). All hostages of the Syrian Army were killed by the rebels.
The Syrian Army also regained control of the area surrounding Salma on Wednesday, which is another disadvantage for the rebels. According to a military source from Jabal Al-Akrad (literally “Mountain of the Kurds”): the Syrian Arab Army's 103rd Brigade and allied militias have completely recaptured the villages al-Kawm, Al-Mareei, Marj Khawkhah, Beit Miru, Al Hawr, and Al-Maruniyat, after intense clashes with the rebels.
The Al-Nusra Front and the FSA suffered one of their greatest defeats of the past three years on Tuesday. According to Al-Masdar News, they lost the strategically important city of Salma, which is in the northeastern coastal region of Latakia. Salma is located on the highest point in Jabal Al-Akrad. The strategic loss of Salma will help allow the Syrian Army to quickly advance towards the Turkish border within the next few weeks.
With the recapture of Salma in the Syrian region of Latakia, Syrian forces have taken control of the highest point in Jabal Al-Akrad, reports Al-Masdar News. The city has been under the control of the rebels since 2012 and is situated more than twelve kilometers from the Turkish border, reports Sputnik Türkiye.
Meanwhile, the Syria-Russia coalition continues making territorial gains in Syria. The main battles are currently being fought in the region of Latakia, which is where the rebels of Al-Nusra Front mainly reside. In the next few days, the coalition forces are likely to focus on advancing to the Turkish border, in order to "seal" it off from the outside. At the same time, they will advance eastward towards Idleb. The first large-scale offensive will likely be made against the rebel stronghold of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Al-Rabiyah. The first coastal brigade of the FSA is stationed there. The second offensive could be a simultaneous attack on two flanks: the Syrian Army could advance northward into the city of Kinsibba after regaining control of Al-Mreij, Al Kawm, Mrouniyat, and Murj Al-Khokha.
Kinsibba is similar to Salma in that it's made up of hilly terrain and therefore serves as a good base for Islamist rebels. Regaining control of this strategic town means that the Army can make the transition to the Turkish border in the region of Latakia. The final attack could be carried out in the city of Al-Sirmaniyah which would then allow the Army to advance further north towards Jisr Al-Shughour.
The Syrian Army reported on Wednesday that it had also made territorial gains in the southern province of Dara, but that heavy fighting had still been going on. The news agency Fars reported that the Islamist commander Munir al-Muthib and Abu al-Basheq Raqd were killed in the fighting. More heavy fighting between the Syrian Army and various rebel groups are currently taking place in Damascus, Deir Ezzor, Homs, and Aleppo.
The Russian Air Force reports that it had carried out 311 airstrikes against 1,097 targets in the first ten days of the new year. Meanwhile, it's also able to use Hama's airfield. This air base was occupied by the rebels before it was recaptured by Assad's army, reports Debkafile. The Syrian Army now controls Highway 5 leading out of Hama, which connects Aleppo with Damascus. The motorway currently constitutes their only logistical connection between Central and Northern Syria. Moreover, regaining control of Hama serves as a "shield" for defending the Latakia region, which serves as the main power base for the Syrian government. Russian strategists are primarily targeting all possible airfields in the country, so that the Syrian Air Force can participate in their air strikes and thus relieve the Russian Air Force occupation.
Since December 2015, at least 20 commanders of various rebel groups have been killed in targeted attacks in Syria. It is reported that radical Islamist groups were among the affected rebel groups. Abu Rateb al-Homsi, commander of the rebel group Ahrar al-Sham, was killed in the region of Homs on Tuesday. Unidentified persons are said to have set fire to his car while he was sitting in it. Thomas Pierret, Syria specialist at the University of Edinburgh, believes that the Syrian military, with its support from Russia, is responsible for the killings. "The regime and its allies are by far the main suspects."
The Daily Star quotes Pierret as saying, "One of the components of the counter-insurgency strategy implemented by Russia since September is the decapitation of the insurgent leadership." With the help of Russian support, government intelligence services in Damascus will be able to gather better information on the main members of the rebel groups. Another possibility is that "IS-sleeper cells" arranged the killing of Abu Rateb al-Homsis. Sahran Allusch, chief of the militia Army of Islam, was killed in a Russian air raid as early as December. In 2013, the radical Islamist called for the genocide of all Shiites and Alawites in Syria.
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