Idlib On Tenterhooks, As More Rebel Strongholds Fall

(Damascus) An eerie atmosphere of deceptively relative calm prevailed last night over much of the front confrontation lines in rural Idlib as the advancing Syrian army bent on fortifying its newly attained ground that had been under rebel control for over six years. No one knows exactly what the plans are, amid confusion exasperated by unconfirmed reports of secret negotiations underway, with Russian mediators, following a decision by a number of influential people in some of the biggest towns in the area to surrender and hand their towns over to the government without a fight.

The Syrian army has gained the upper hand over rebel forces in recent days, liberation a large number of villages, towns and strategic governing hills in north-western Hama as well as south-eastern Idlib on a daily basis. Khan Sheikhoon, the largest city in the southern part of Idlib province, could fall any day now, with only 2 km s separating it from Syrian army units, closing in on the city from both the western and eastern flanks,. The strategic city is virtually in the very jaws of the Army’s pincers, and the fall of Khan Sheikhoon, expected any minute now, shall deal a devastating military and moral blow to Turkish-backed terrorists and militias in the region and beyond.

Army’s jaws of pincers

Almost completely encircled by the Syrian army units and under the mercy of its overwhelming fire power, are also the large towns of Mourek (where the Turkish army has a so-called observation post according to the Sochi agreement between Erdogan and Putin), Latmean, Latamneh, Kafr Zeita and scores of villages that have been strongholds for the two major terrorist groups, Jaish al Izza and al Nusra Front( Syria version of al Qaeda).

Taking over those strategic towns is essential for paving the way to the long-due Mother of all Battles in the city of Idlib, almost totally controlled by al Nusra extremists and some other hardline militias under its wings, who have vowed to fight the Syrian state to the bitter end. The battle for Idlib is now inevitable despite the existence of some 1.5 million inhabitants in the city and its suburbs. All previous truces and agreements have been systematically breached and rejected by al Nusra and its affiliates, numbering some 75000 fighters, heavily armed, and well-trained by Turkish as well as other regional and international officers.

Rebel arsenal awaits Army

The rebels armament includes some the newest and lethal anti-tank missiles, including large numbers of the NATO adopted version of the BGM-71 TOW missile, Kornet missiles, dozens of tanks, hundreds of APC s (Armored Personnel Carriers) mainly Turkish-made (a number of those have been destroyed by the Syrian army in recent battles in the area), a huge number of mortar launchers of various calibers including the modern 120 mm made by Turkey’s MKEK with a range of over 8 km ( already used by terrorists in recent shelling of mainly Christian towns in Rural Hama, a couple of months ago.

More significantly, rebels shot down a Syrian SU 22 a few days ago in the Idlib countryside using a sophisticated shoulder-mounted missile, believed to be the notorious US-made FM-92 STINGER missile. Terrorists are also believed to have other Man-Portable anti-aircraft systems, including the lethal third generation version of the Chinese-made QW-2 MANPADS missile, already used by some rebel militias including the Turkmenistan Army in shooting down Syrian and Russian helicopters and jet fighters.

The Syrian army has seized thousands rocket launchers, RPG s, Sniper rifles, heavy, medium and light machine guns, rifles and guns along with caches totaling hundreds of tons of mortar shells, munitions and, more dangerously over 15 tons of the C 4 highly explosive material in liberated areas all over the country in recent months. Dozens of rebel drones, including attack versions laden with small high-explosive shells, have been shot down by both the Syrian as well as Russian air defense systems.

The worst nightmare, of course, is the suspected chemical capability of al Nusra and other Turkish-backed militias is deployed in a last-ditch suicide situation. Previous limited or even faked chemical attacks by rebel groups, and plotting to blame them on government forces in order to invite foreign intervention, are all mischievous reminders that send us all a shiver down the spine.

Mother of Syrian battles

Terror groups, their operators, masters and the whole world should genuinely realize that by holding over a million civilians hostage , many against their will, and using them as a human shield, al Nusra and other terrorist organizations in Idlib, shall not succeed in fending off a looming mega offensive to liberate the rogue city, in the grip of Islamic fanatics and hardcore terrorists for some six years now.  The Syrian leadership, seems determined to recover every inch of territory that has been plagued by swarms of terrorists from four corners of the globe. The battle for Idlib is set to shape the future of Syria and much more; no wonder it has earned the nickname ‘Mother of all Syrian Battles’.