The air defense forces of the Khmeimim airbase in Syria destroyed six maneuvering strike drones approaching the airfield from a north-west direction. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the incident occurred on the evening of August 11. It is noted that all the devices were shot down at a safe distance and did not cause any damage.

“By means of controlling the airspace of the Russian Khmeimim airbase, six maneuvering unmanned aerial vehicles were found approaching from the north-western direction to the airfield. With the standard anti-aircraft fire weapons of the Russian air base, all six terrorist unmanned aerial vehicles were destroyed at safe distances, ”the defense department said in a statement.

For a long time, militants regularly try to attack Khmeimim using various types of weapons. So, on August 8, terrorists fired several rockets in her direction, but they did not fly, bursting in one of the settlements two kilometers from Khmeimim.

In late July, militants launched three drones in the direction of Hmeimim from the de-escalation zone in Idlib. They were also destroyed. Recall that Idlib remains the last major hotbed of terrorism in Syria, where several radical groups take refuge. From this direction, the militants repeatedly launched shelling and attacks on the positions of the Syrian government forces.

On August 10 and 11 alone, while repelling the attacks of militants on the positions of government forces, 23 Syrian military personnel were killed and another seven were injured. It is specified that all the attacks of the militants were repulsed, while the terrorists suffered serious losses.

Building up manpower and equipment

Against this background, Major General Alexei Bakin, head of the Russian Center for the Reconciliation of the warring parties in Syria (CPVS), said the militants are building up manpower and equipment in the southern regions of Idlib province.

“Terrorist groups continue to make attempts to expand the controlled territories by force, and carry out the concentration of armed units in the southern part of the Idlib de-escalation zone,” the CPVS said in a statement.

According to available information, militants of various groups are transferring weapons to the border with the province of Hama, including armored vehicles, pickups with heavy machine guns, mined trucks and mortar guns.

  • Syrian Army
  • RIA News
  • © Mikhail Voskresensky

It was in the south of Idlib that the "stronghold" of terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra *, the city of al-Hubayt, was located. Military experts call it the “gate of Idlib,” since it opens the way to the important center of the province - Khan Sheikhun.

The other day, the Syrian government Syrian newspaper Al Watan reported that the SAR army was able to take control of al-Hubayt, inflicting militants on al-Nusra and its allies significant damage in technology and manpower. The publication reports that the Syrian troops also managed to free several settlements on the border of Idlib and Hama from the militants.

South front

It is worth recalling that the Syrian army and pro-government forces resumed the military operation on 5 August. In Damascus, they said that such a decision was made, since the militants did not adhere to the ceasefire.

The truce was concluded in Nur-Sultan on August 1 following the results of negotiations in the Astana format. Then a delegation of the Syrian armed opposition agreed to a truce, the director of the Department of Asia and Africa of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Mukash Serikuly told reporters.

According to experts, in this situation, ceasefire violations could be expected. As an orientalist Sergei Demidenko, an associate professor at the RANEPA Institute of Social Sciences, explained in a commentary to RT, Idlib now has a large number of groups of different orientations.

  • Fights for Idlib, 2012
  • Reuters
  • © Ahmed Noor / Shaam News Network / Handout

“They do not have a single command center, but there are a number of international“ partners ”that influence the situation. I must say that a very motley coalition is also fighting from Damascus. All this together leads to a rather chaotic situation in which ceasefire violations are inevitable, ”the expert explained.

Over the years of the civil war, continuing in Syria since 2011, the province of Idlib has never been under the control of official Damascus. It was she who became eight years ago the center of the formation of radical armed groups that quickly replaced the peaceful opposition. Here, for the first time, militants attacked government forces.

Idlib still remains a haven for radicals of all stripes, including terrorists. Following the results of the Astana talks in 2017, the province was to become one of the de-escalation zones - it was here that the authorities brought militants who agreed to lay down their arms during the battles in other regions of the ATS.

Nonetheless, Damascus and Moscow for a long time refrained from launching a military operation against the groups entrenched in Idlib. In the fall of 2018, Russia and Turkey agreed to create a 20 km wide demilitarized buffer zone in the province, which should have been abandoned by both armed militants and Syrian government troops.

The implementation of these agreements was undertaken by Ankara, which has strong observation posts along the perimeter of the Idlib de-escalation zone. However, it was not possible to fully implement this plan in practice, and the armed sorties of the militants continued.

Meanwhile, in April 2019, the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces reported that terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra already control 99% of the de-escalation zone in Idlib, and the number of militants in the region reached 50 thousand, and most of them are included in -Nusru. "

"The Nest of Terrorists"

The fact that disparate groups of militants eventually began to consolidate in the south of Idlib under the wing of the terrorist structure “Khayat Tahrir al-Sham” led by “Jabhat al-Nusra” was announced at the beginning of May by then head of the Central Military Commissariat Viktor Kupchishin. It was also suggested that the militants were preparing an attack force for an attack on Hama.

Moreover, commenting on one of the attacks on the Khmeimim airbase from the side of al-Nusra in May 2019, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the “terrorist nest” in Idlib should be “uprooted”.

  • Syrian government army soldiers in Idlib
  • Reuters
  • © SANA / Handout

The Russian side has previously called for moderate opposition to dissociate itself from the terrorists controlling Idlib.

“As for the moderate groups that are there, we urge them to secede from these terrorist groups and to jointly clear this territory from terrorist groups,” said Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev in April.

According to experts, it was initially assumed that Idlib would not become an enclave in whose territory the opposition and the militants would be inviolable.

“The creation of de-escalation zones is a temporary tool, over time they should be eliminated amid restoration of the constitutional order and cessation of hostilities in the country. As a result, moderate groups must join civilian life, and irreconcilable radicals must either leave the country or destroy them, ”explained HSE teacher Grigory Lukyanov in an interview with RT.

However, over the past year and a half, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham has strengthened as much as possible and now controls most of Idlib. This was also facilitated by the withdrawal by Turkey from Idlib of most of the formations under its control in order to direct them against the Kurds, the expert noted.

According to him, during the war years this area has turned into a transit zone for the illegal trade in arms and other types of criminal activity, which further exacerbates the situation.

“Unwillingness to negotiate”

The fighting against the Jabhat al-Nusra militants, launched by the Syrian army with the support of the Russian Air Force, caused a storm of indignation on the part of Western countries. In late July, representatives of the United States, Britain, as well as UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock accused Moscow and Damascus of striking civilian targets in Idlib.

Russia and the Syrian authorities categorically reject these allegations. According to the RF Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya, such statements have a very specific purpose - to maintain the position of terrorists in Syria in order to use them in the future against Damascus.

  • Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Syria Geir Pedersen
  • © Evgenia Novozhenina

Moreover, the fact that at the time the Syrian army launched the offensive, almost the entire territory of Idlib was under the control of Al-Nusra terrorists, was not questioned. Such data at the end of May was presented by UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen.

It should be noted that for civilians forced to leave the war zones, places were prepared in areas of temporary accommodation in the provinces of Hama, Homs and Deir ez-Zor, as well as checkpoints. According to information at the beginning of June, about 80 thousand people were ready to leave Idlib, according to the central military command center.

According to Grigory Lukyanov, according to the allies of Damascus, including Russia, negotiations with moderate radical groups and the local population should be the most acceptable solution to the problem.

“The main task is to return this region to Syria, to incorporate the local population into Syrian society. If many civilians die in the course of the offensive, it will be difficult to do it, even if we disregard humanitarian considerations, ”the expert explained.

It is for this reason that Russia initiated negotiations with the mediation of Turkey, and now, on the initiative of Moscow, attempts to establish a cease-fire continue, Lukyanov said.

“But it’s especially difficult to agree on the background of the moral support given to the groups operating in Idlib, Western countries. Thus, they incite reluctance to negotiate in warring fighters, ”the expert concluded.

* “Jabhat al-Nusra” (“Jabhat Fath al-Sham”, “Front al-Nusra”, “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham”) - the organization was recognized as terrorist by the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation dated December 29, 2014.