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Northwestern Syria offensive (December 2019–present)

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Northwestern Syria offensive
(December 2019–present)
Part of the Syrian Civil War
Maarat Al-Numan Offensive (2019).svg
Situation in Northwestern Syria as of 14 February 2020.
Locations of Turkish, Russian, and Iranian outposts are pictured.      Syrian Army control     Syrian Opposition control     Syrian Army & SDF control
Date19 December 2019[7][8][9][10][11][12] – present
(1 month and 4 weeks)
Location
Northwestern Syria
Result Ongoing
Territorial
changes
Belligerents
 Syria
 Russia
 Iran
Allied militias:
Palestinian Syrian militias
PMF-affiliated militias
Liwa Fatemiyoun[1]
Liwa Zainebiyoun[1]
 Hezbollah[2]
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham
Ajnad al-Kavkaz[3]
Rouse the Believers Operations Room[4]
Turkistan Islamic Party[5][6]
Syrian National Army
 Turkey (sporadic clashes)
Commanders and leaders
Suheil al-Hassan[28][29]
Maher al-Assad[29]
Juma al Ahmad [30]
Asghar Pashapour [6]
Hezbollah Jaafar al Sadiq [2][30]
Abu Mohammad al-Julani[30]
(Hayat Tahrir al-Sham)
Adnan Ahmed (Deputy Defense Minister of the Syrian Interim Government)
Units involved

 Syria

 Russia

 Iran

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham

  • Aleppo City Battalion[1]
  • Red Bands[30]

Syrian National Army

Rouse the Believers Operations Room

Turkish Armed Forces

Casualties and losses
Syria 941 killed[37]
Russia 8 killed[38][39]
13 killed[40][41]
Hezbollah 5 killed[30]
Iran 1 killed[41]
991 killed[37]
Turkey 14 killed (13 soldiers, 1 contractor)[42][43]
380 civilians killed[12][11]
980,000+ civilians displaced from Idlib and Aleppo[44]

The northwestern Syria offensive, codenamed "Dawn of Idlib 2",[10] is a military operation launched by the Syrian government, Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and other allied militias against the Syrian opposition of the Interim Government and the Syrian Salvation Government (Hayat Tahrir al-Sham)[45] forces in Idlib and surrounding provinces during the Syrian Civil War. The offensive began on 19 December 2019. The offensive left 689,000 civilians displaced from the opposition areas as a result of the Syrian Government advance.[46][47] Pro-government forces encircled several Turkish observation posts by February.[48][49] Meanwhile, Turkish Armed Forces established several new observation posts in the region.[50][51][52][53]

Background

Months prior to the offensive, the Syrian government carried out an offensive that reclaimed parts of the Hama Governorate and southern parts of the Idlib Governorate under opposition control after months of fighting lasting from April to August 2019.

According to a Reuters analysis the motives behind the offensive were the HTS takeover of Idlib that ended any realistic prospect of fulfilling the requirements of the 2018 Turko-Russian Agreement, which called for disarming HTS, an internationally proscribed terrorist organization.[54] and the opening the strategic M4 and M5 highways to civilian traffic.[55]

Timeline

Prelude – Early clashes

On 24 November 2019, pro-Syrian government forces, supported by Russian airstrikes, entered the villages of Um al-Khalakhil, Dahret al-Zarzour, al-Sayeer and Msheirfeh. Syrian state media reported that several rebel fighters were killed during the operation.[56][57][58][59][60]

On 25 November, a second advance was attempted by government forces targeting the village of al-Farjah, which Syrian state media reported as being under the control of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).[61]

On 26 November, opposition media reported that the rebel "Fatah Mubieen Operations Room" repelled another attempted government advance on the Sahel village in Idlib's southeastern countryside.[62]

On 28 November, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham announced repelling a joint Iranian militia-Syrian advance on Kabani in northeastern Latakia Governorate, with pro-government forces withdrawing after hours of clashes. Russian warplanes were also reportedly seen during the assault.[63]

On 30 November, HTS and other opposition groups reportedly captured several villages near the Abu al-Duhur Military Airbase.[64]

On 1 December 2019, Ansar al-Tawhid released photos of the group firing improvised artillery at government forces in the southeastern Idlib countryside.[65][better source needed] On the same day, HTS, the Turkish-backed National Front for Liberation (NFL), Ajnad al-Kavkaz, and Ansar al-Tawhid attacked additional villages from government forces, with fierce clashes occurring in the towns of Establat and Rassem Wared in which two war tanks and five transport vehicles were reportedly destroyed. During the rebel advance the Syrian military said it destroyed two SVBIEDs near the town of Kafriya and repelled the joint rebel offensive.[66]

On 4 December, clashes continued[67] as the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) seized a military base east of Umm al-Tinah village.[68]

On 9 December, the military bombarded rebel-held areas in the southern Idlib countryside, as well as portions of the western Aleppo countryside and parts of Aleppo city's outskirts.[69]

Offensive starts

Following an air bombing campaign, ground fighting resumed on 18 December 2019, after the 14th round of Astana negotiations in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan ended a few days prior without any definitive ceasefire agreement, reportedly due to the opposition's refusal to accept new Russian terms regarding control of Idlib.[70] As many as 200 Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and Guardians of Religion Organization fighters jointly attacked Syrian government forces in the Umm al Khalakhil and Zarzur fronts. The Syrian military said they had repelled all attacks and that 12 pro-government fighters were injured and hospitalized. On the same day, Russian intelligence reported that 300 fighters from the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army arrived in Idlib from Afrin in preparation for renewed fighting.[71]

On 19 December, pro-government media reported that the Syrian government had initiated the "second phase" of Operation Dawn of Idlib, the prior government offensive in summer 2019, with pro-government forces led by the 25th Special Mission Forces Division attacking several villages in southeastern Idlib Governorate, particularly along the Umm Jalal axis. A Syrian military source said the objective of the operation was to capture territory south of Ma'arrat al-Nu'man.[7]

On 21 December, several pro-government fighters were killed in an ambush by the NFL in Latakia, with several light weapons also reportedly captured.[72] On the same day the SNA also said it killed an entire unit of pro-government fighters in southeastern Idlib.[73][better source needed]

By 22 December, government forces spearheaded by the 5th Corps and the 25th Special Mission Forces Division had made notable advances in the southeastern Idlib countryside, battling rebel units in the area and reportedly capturing over 15 towns and villages within a 48-hour period. According to frontline reports, the SAA death toll had risen to 40, with over 50 wounded. An SAA source claimed the opposition had suffered 70-80 dead.[74] During its advance, the Syrian army began encircling the Turkish observation point near Sarman.[75] On 23 December, the Syrian army advanced further, completely surrounding the Turkish observation point near Sarman[76] and capturing Jarjnaz, considered the largest town in the eastern countryside of Ma'arrat al-Nu'man.[77][78]

On 24 December, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other opposition elements launched a morning counterattack to retake Jarjnaz, reportedly recapturing the villages of Tell Mannas, al-Barsah, Farwan, and al-Ghadfah in the process; an SVBIED was deployed and attacked pro-government forces in Jarjnaz.[79][80] On the same day, HTS reportedly withdrew from its defensive positions in and around Ma’arat Al-Nu’man as well as other defensive positions in the southern Idlib countryside, handing control over to Ansar al-Tawhid which is part of Rouse the Believers Operations Room.[81] The Deputy Defense Minister of the Syrian Interim Government claimed that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham had blocked reinforcements sent by the National Army from areas in northern Aleppo such as Afrin to Idlib, and further claimed that the only National Army factions allowed into Idlib by HTS were the Levant Front, Ahrar al-Sharqiya and the Lions of the East Army. HTS denied the claims made by the deputy defense minister.[82]

On 25 December 2019, the Russian Air Force bombed a military convoy of Ahrar al-Sham moving near the town of Kafr Nubl in southern Idlib, killing an unknown number of its field commanders and militants. Allegedly, the general commander Abu Jaber al-Sheikh was injured in the strike. Additionally, a second airstrike targeted a meeting of militant commanders in the city of Maarat al-Numan, which is the key militant stronghold in this part of Greater Idlib.[83]

On 26 December, ground advancements largely halted and both sides began shelling each others positions around Ma'arrat Al-Nu’man, with casualties being reported on both sides. Pro-government forces initiated shelling on the towns of Bernan, Farwan, Barissa, and Halban.[84] The following days both sides reported that they paused their operations in the Idlib region due to poor weather conditions. According to a military source in the Syrian army the air force was grounded because of limited visibility. [85] The NFL on their side was planning to launch a counterattack, but the attack was called off due to poor weather conditions. Instead, they brought reinforcements to their positions. [86]

Russia–Turkey ceasefire

According to a Russian major-general, a ceasefire was agreed with the Turkish side. The ceasefire was introduced in the Idlib de-escalation zone starting on 9 January 2020. Turkey had sent a delegation to Moscow to establish a new ceasefire in the region.[87] Turkey's defence ministry announced that the ceasefire would take effect as of 12 January. They said that the attacks by land and air would halt at one minute past midnight.[88] The ceasefire will stem the flow of refugees from Idlib but will also allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to the region.[89]

Post-ceasefire advances

On 11 January 2020, Ansar al-Tawhid released a video of a mechanized attack against government positions in southeastern Idlib using heavy machine guns previously captured from the Syrian army, the group also reportedly ambushed a vehicle carrying government officers, and successfully captured a position from government forces and seized some small arms while doing so.[4]

After the brokered ceasefire went into affect, late on 15 January, the Syrian Army and its allies resumed offensive actions in southern Idlib in response to the recent series of ceasefire violations by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other militant groups, capturing the villages of Barsah and Nouhiya, located west of the Abu al-Duhur Military Airbase.[90]

On 16 January, the Syrian Army captured three towns in southeast Idlib after troops stormed the towns of Talkhatra, Abu Jurayf and Khirbat Dawud in the morning. The three towns were secured following several hours of clashes that killed 22 militants, including 16 jihadists, according to SOHR. HTS and its allies claimed to recapture Abu Jurayf in a counterattack that killed more than ten Syrian troops, due to the SAA failing to secure the town after initially storming it. A 23mm machine gun, several ATGMs, and other equipment were seized during the counterattack, according to HTS.[91][92] On 17 January, the rebels captured Tal Musaytif from government forces, according to SOHR.[93]

Russia's defense ministry stated that a major clash had occurred on the evening of 22 January between Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) forces—backed by 20 cars, tanks and two armored vehicles—and Syrian government forces. The ministry and Syrian state media added that the militants also used attack drones and car bombs and that the assault pushed the SAA out of two settlements in Idlib. The clashes reportedly left up to 50 fighters killed and 90 wounded while government forces lost 40 dead and 80 wounded. An NFL spokesman said the assault had taken place earlier in the week. A Syrian military source was cited as saying army units were redeployed to the area and eventually repelled the attacks "with high efficiency". However, a field source in Hama said he was not aware of any significant attack near the front lines and that rebels were mostly using artillery and rockets to strike the SAA's positions in the de-escalation zone.[5][94] On the same day the Rouse the Believers Operations Room released photos of captured equipment and also released a photo of a pro-government fighter's German Identification card. The coalition also released video footage of mortar attacks against the government.[4]

Capture of Ma'arrat al-Nu'man

Daily changes in the frontlines

After a short lull, and after the Russia-Turkey ceasefire failed to materialize, the Syrian Arab Army renewed its ground offensive towards Ma'arrat al-Nu'man on 24 January, assisted by massive airstrikes. Led by the 4th Armored Division, the Syrian army also launched new ground operations on the Aleppo axis on 25 January, opening with a massive artillery barrage on rebel defenses in the western Aleppo outskirts, spanning from the Al-Zahra'a Association Quarter to Rashiddeen 3 and 4 suburbs. The 4th Division conducted an armored assault on rebel defense lines near the Great Prophet Mosque, the local scientific research building, and Rashidden 3 suburb, but did not make any significant gains.[95]

Between 24 and 26 January, the Syrian army captured eight towns and villages in the Ma'arrat al-Nu'man countryside, including Tell Mannas, Ghadqa, and Maar Shamshah, and captured a section of the M5 Highway north of the stronghold, cutting a major rebel communication and supply line from Idlib. According to SOHR, by 26 January, Russia had conducted 78 airstrikes targeting front lines around Ma'arrat al-Nu'man, south of Aleppo, and in the western countryside while Syrian helicopters reportedly deployed 52 barrel bombs in rural areas.[96] According to opposition activists and paramedics, Ma'arrat al-Nu'man was almost empty of civilians as a result of the intense government bombardment in prior weeks which displaced hundreds of thousands, many of which fled north towards the border with Turkey. By the end of 26 January, the SAA was less than a kilometer from the city.[97]

On 27 January, heavy clashes continued as government forces reached the eastern, northern and southern outskirts of Ma'arrat al-Nu'man, nearly encircling it. The 25th Special Mission Forces Division reportedly overran rebel defenses on the city's southern flank, capturing several towns and villages, including Sahyan, Kafr Basin, and Muqah, and capturing the majority of the M5 highway located south of the metro, except for the Turkish observation post at Maar Hattat. According to SOHR, pro-government forces were besieging Ma'arrat al-Nu'man from three sides and had captured 22 areas since 24 January; SOHR recorded 91 deaths among pro-government forces and 112 among the rebels, including 89 jihadists, since 24 January.[98][99][100] On the Aleppo front, reports emerged of an ongoing battle near Khan Tuman between the Syrian army, assisted by the National Defence Forces (NDF), and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. The army attempted to capture the village after they seized several hills to its northeast.[33]

The Syrian Armed Forces official statement on the capture of Ma'arrat al-Nu'man

On 28 January, the Syrian Arab Army and allies captured Kafr Rumah and the Wadi Deif military base following token rebel resistance. Pro-government forces subsequently stormed Ma'arrat al-Nu'man from three fronts, entering the city and capturing most of its districts after short clashes, according to Syrian state media. A Syrian military source said HTS and allied rebels mostly withdrew from the stronghold the day before, neglecting to defend the city proper, besides a small garrison. It was the first time Syrian government forces had control of the city since losing it on 10 October 2012. Rebel units subsequently counterattacked pro-government forces in the vicinity of the stronghold.[101][102][103] The SAA continued to push west of Ma'arrat al-Nu'man, reportedly capturing Hantutin.[104] Meanwhile, the SAA reached the outskirts of Khan Tuman after capturing the last hills to its east during repeated assaults spearheaded by the Republican Guard's 30th Division.[105]

On 29 January, following the latest army advances, the SOHR reported that 57% of the Idlib Governorate remained under rebel control, while the other 43% was controlled by government forces. It stated that the Syrian Army had managed to capture over 40km of the M5 highway and only a 25km stretch held by rebel forces was preventing it from controlling the highway in its entirety. It also reported a government advance on the outskirts of Aleppo, but stated that it did not hold strategic significance.[106] Al-Masdar news reported that the Syrian Army had secured Ma'arrat al-Nu'man's flanks and further captured the town of Al-Harradah.[107] The Syrian Army reported a breakthrough in the Rashideen 5 suburb of Aleppo and advanced toward Rashideen 4. This advance was stated to be the first major SAA breakthrough on the previously deadlocked Aleppo front.[108]

Army push towards Saraqib

On 30 January, the Syrian Army reached the outskirts of the militant stronghold of Saraqib, north of Ma'arrat al-Nu'man, after capturing the towns of Kafr Battikh, Tell Mardikh, Jobas, Qomhane, Hatamiyeh and Tell Dibs, pushing the front line three kilometers away from Saraqib's city center.[109] Later in the day, the army advanced further in the southeastern Idlib countryside, capturing the al-Suater hilltop from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies. Turkey′s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to take direct military action in Idlib unless the government-led offensive ceased.[110][111] On the Aleppo front, HTS detonated a remote control car bomb and deployed SVBIEDs followed by rocket and mortar attacks into the northwestern Aleppo outskirts against Syrian government positions, opening a new front. The HTS-linked Ebaa News Agency released footage of HTS inghimasi fighters pledging to wage jihad until death before deploying for Aleppo to attack pro-government positions. Syrian state media claimed government forces destroyed four SVBIEDs before they reached their destination. HTS also claimed to have killed a number of Iranian-linked militia fighters in west Aleppo.[111] Meanwhile, the remnant Nour al-Din al-Zenki rebel group, operating from Turkish-backed opposition held areas in northern Aleppo, sent reinforcements to the western Aleppo countryside to help bolster area defenses.[112]

On 1 February, in response to government gains on the ground, the Turkish military established three new observation posts around the town of Saraqib.[113]

On 3 February, Syrian and Turkish forces exchanged fire in Idlib, Latakia and the northern Aleppo countryside. Turkey and the SOHR reported seven Turkish soldiers, one civilian contractor, and 13 Syrian soldiers were killed.[43][114][115] According to Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, 76 Syrian soldiers were "neutralized" in retaliation and 57 Syrian military sites were bombed.[116] The Syrian state news agency SANA reported there were no casualties among Syrian troops[117], and the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria denied Turkish claims of Syrian soldiers made casualties.[118] Turkey′s president Erdogan demanded that Russian forces in Idlib "stand aside"; he nevertheless dismissed the possibility of direct conflict with Russia saying Turkey and Russia would talk about the issue “without anger”.[119] Syrian government forces continued its offensive in the southeastern part of Idlib province and captured the villages of Ballisa, Tell Elaghar, an abandoned Air Defense base, Jadida Tal Khatra, Msheirfeh, Mardikh and Tell Mardikh on the same day.[120][121] With this advance, the Syrian Army captured 22 villages and towns including 110 square kilometers of territory.[122]

Siege and capture of Saraqib

On 5 February, the Syrian Army captured the town of Resafah and several nearby villages, isolating Saraqib from three directions.[123] On the same day, the army advanced east and north of Saraqib, effectively besieging the stronghold.[124]

On 6 February, pro-government forces seized the area of Duwayr, cutting off the M5 highway north of Saraqib and leaving only the road through Sarmin open, which itself was under constant fire from the army.[125] Later in the day, the 25th Special Mission Forces Division captured the town of Afs, fully encircling Saraqib and all rebel and Turkish forces stationed there, including the four recently established Turkish observation posts.[126] Hours after the encirclement, the Syrian Army fully captured the city,[127] thereby opening the road towards the city of Idlib. Meanwhile, prominent rebel commander Obada Abu Jafar and eight other militants of an elite Ansar al-Tawhid unit were killed in fierce clashes with the Syrian Army while defending their positions in southern Idlib.[128] On the same day, Israeli warplanes fired missiles near Damascus while targeting Iranian elements in the area. The Syrian government said Israel intended to "save the armed terrorist organisations which ha[d] been collapsing in Idlib and western Aleppo Governorate in front of the strikes of the Syrian Army".[129]

Army captures the M5 highway and Turkish skirmishes

On 7 February, the Syrian Army, spearheaded by the 25th Special Forces Division and assisted by the Republican Guard and Hezbollah, made further advances, capturing the towns of Zaytan, Birnah, Makhalah and Huwayyir al-Eis in the southwestern Aleppo countryside and the towns of Maharim, Khawari, Tall al-Nabariz, Ijaz, Rasm al-Ward and Abbad in southeast Idlib.[130][131] The 25th Special Forces Division also captured the towns of Karrathin, al-Dahiriyah and al-Thuriyah as well as the Ebla University complex on the administrative border between southeast Idlib and southwest Aleppo by the end of the day.[131]

On 8 February, the army captured several sites along the strategic Aleppo-Damascus Highway (M5) as it advanced north of Saraqib. Government forces crossed the M5 highway and entered the southwestern countryside of the Aleppo Governorate, the first time since 2013, from the southern approach.[132] On the northern approach, the army advanced on the town of Al-Eiss, capturing the towns of Maryudah, Tell Bajir, Kusiniya, al-Shiekh Ahmad, Abu Kannseh, Umm Atabah, Rasm al-Eis, Rasm al-Saharij and Jub Kas in the process.[133] According to pro-government activists, Al-Eiss also hosted a Turkish observation post. The army subsequently captured Al-Eiss and the nearby hilltop.[20] Pro-government forces later captured the town of Tell Hadiyah in the area while, on the Idlib front, continued their northern advance along the M5, capturing the town of Talhiyah.[134]

On 9 February, in Idlib, the Syrian Army captured the towns of Buwaybiyah and al-Kusaybiyah as well as the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) research center.[135] Army units stormed and captured the towns of Barqum, al-Zarbah and al-Salehiyah along the M5.[136] On the Aleppo front, pro-government forces captured the areas of Tal Kalariyah and Kalariyah and advanced on rebel positions in the Rashideen 4 district in west Aleppo.[137]

On 10 February, Syrian government forces shelled a recently-built Turkish observation post at Taftanaz Military Airbase, killing five Turkish soldiers, according to the Turkish Defense Ministry.[138] According to the SOHR, six Turkish soldiers and four Syrian rebels were killed in the attack.[138][139] The attack reportedly destroyed military hardware and supplies including trucks, APCs and a main battle tank.[140] A Turkish convoy was also reported to be destroyed by unidentified warplanes near Qminas.[141] The Turkish Ministry of Defense claimed, without evidence, that 115 Syrian army sites and positions were targeted in retaliation, including destroying three tanks and two mortar positions, and that 101 Syrian soldiers were "neutralized".[142][143] Meanwhile, the Syrian army, led by the 25th Special Mission Forces Division, captured the towns of Kafr Halab, Meznaz, and another town from HTS and the National Front for Liberation (NFL) northeast of the ICARDA research center.[144]

On 11 February, after asserting control over the Rashideen 4 district in western Aleppo and virtually converging the northern and southern front lines in the countryside,[145] government forces controlled the entirety of the M5 highway for the first time since 2012.[146][147] On the same day, Turkish-backed rebel forces shot down a Syrian Mil Mi-17 helicopter, killing all on board. Rebel groups launched a counter offensive on the town of Nayrab,[148] which the Syrian government claimed to have repelled.[149] Later that day, the SAA captured Khan al-Asal.[150]

On 12 February, Turkey′s president Erdogan announced: “I hereby declare that we will strike regime forces everywhere from now on regardless of the [2018] deal if any tiny bit of harm is dealt to our soldiers at observation posts or elsewhere.”[151]

On 13 February, the army, alongside the auxiliary Local Defense Forces (LDF) and Liwa al-Quds, advanced north of Az Zarbah and captured Rif Muhandiseen and Kafr Jum along with several surrounding tactical points on the approach to the strategic Regiment 46 base, also known as Base 46, which fell to rebel forces in November 2012. Another army unit reportedly made a push on a separate axis in Aleppo.[152][153]

On 14 February, a second Syrian Mil Mi-17 helicopter was shot down with a guided missile near Qubtan al-Jabal, killing its crew. The Syrian helicopter, before being shot down, was alleged to have dropped barrel bombs.[154]

Greater Aleppo offensive

On 15 February, the Syrian army attacked opposition forces in the northern Aleppo countryside in Sheikh Aqil near Darat Izza from Bashmara under joint Rojava and SAA control.[155]

Following the complete capture of the M5 highway, the Syrian Army set its sights on Greater Aleppo[156] and managed to achieve a major breaktrough on 16 February by capturing more than 30 villages, towns and suburbs of Aleppo in a single day.[157] By the evening that same day, the Syrian Army managed to capture the last remaining rebel-held areas in Aleppo's periphery, thus ending the clashes that began with the Battle of Aleppo over seven years prior.[158] Rebel forces were reported to have fled west to avoid being encircled by the SAA, thus leaving the army in full control of the Greater Aleppo area.[159]

Humanitarian consequences

According to SOHR, 100,000 people were displaced because of the fighting as well as Syrian and Russian bombing.[160] On 23 December, the United Nations stated that the renewed fighting that started on 18 December had caused an exodus of 80,000 people across Idlib Governorate.[161]

More than 235,000 civilians were displaced as of 27 December 2019 per the United Nations.[162] By 10 February 2020, the number of displaced civilians had reached 689,000.[46]

Reactions

National

  •  Italy – Italian foreign minister Luigi Di Maio, while speaking about his country's desire to establish a ceasefire in Libya's ongoing civil war, said that the situations in Libya and Syria were similar.[163]
  •  Turkey - On 31 January 2020, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for the Syrian government to end its offensive in Idlib, and has threatened military action unless it does so.[111]
  •  United Arab Emirates – On the UAE's 48th National Day (2 December 2019), an Emirati official at the UAE embassy in Damascus praised the Syrian government's actions and said that Syria's president Bashar al-Assad was acting wisely.[164]
  •  United States – On 26 December 2019, United States president Donald Trump warned via Twitter that "Russia, Syria, and Iran are killing, or on their way to killing, thousands of innocent civilians in Idlib Province," and added that "Turkey is working hard to stop this carnage."[165] US Ambassador to Syria James Jeffrey has warned that the offensive would create a humanitarian crisis.[111] US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and the Syrian government's actions in Idlib and said that they were intentionally preventing the implementation of a cease-fire in northern Syria.[166]

Local

  • Hayat Tahrir al-Sham – In response to 19 December offensive, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham leader Abu Mohammad al-Julani said in a video statement that the offensive would negatively affect regional stability and the lives of people throughout the region, namely the Levant, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq and the Persian Gulf. He also said that HTS has achieved many of its goals in Syria, such as weakening the state of the Syrian military and the Syrian economy; he criticized Russia's role in supporting the Syrian government as an attempt to restore the level of influence Russia had during the Soviet-era.[167][168]

Notes

  1. ^ As can be seen in a photo collection of this article by the Long War Journal, one of pro-government fighters killed during this offensive belonged to the Forces of the Fighters of the Tribes. The militia's emblem can be seen on his photo.

References

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    Four FSB special forces officers reportedly killed in Syria
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