Syria Daily: Both Regime and Rebels Claim Success in NW Battles

Atimah in Idlib Province on the Turkish border, October 10, 2017. (Osman Orsal/Reuters)

Pro-Assad forces advance in southern Aleppo but rebels continue counter-offensive in southeast Idlib


Destroying any notion of a “de-escalation zone”, battles between pro-Assad and rebel forces are surging in northwest Syria, with each side claiming success.

Rebel factions, joined by the hardline Islamist bloc Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, continued to assert gains in a counter-offensive in southeast Idlib Province. The assault, which began on Thursday, has cut into a regime salient that was threatening the Abu Duhur base.

Pro-opposition outlets said the latest gains on Saturday included the villages of Tal Marq and al-Khwain.

In recent weeks the Assad regime’s military and foreign allies had entered Idlib, almost all of which has been controlled by the opposition since spring 2015. They were as close as 2 km (1.2 miles) from Abu Duhur when the rebel counter-offensive began.

Rebels moving into the village of Rubayah (see map):

About 35 miles away in southern Aleppo Province, pro-Assad forces claimed that they took 15 villages on Saturday from the HTS bloc. The advance in al-Hass plateau region appears to have been assisted by a pullback of HTS fighters from the frontline.

The offensive is hoping to secure about 45 km (28 miles) of highway south of Aleppo city.

Russia, Turkey, and Iran had declared a de-escalation zone across Idlib and parts of neighboring Hama and Aleppo Provinces this autumn. However, the pro-Assad attacks never stopped, and Russia supported them on the pretext of fighting HTS, which it said was excluded from the agreement.

Russian warplanes have retaliated for the rebel counter-offensive with attacks on civilian areas across Idlib, killing at least 11 people in the latest bombing.

Turkey has supported the counter-offensive with vehicles, weapons, and ammunition after warning the Assad regime and Russia that attacks on Idlib’s civilians must stop.

Ankara fears another influx of refugees from the fighting, adding to the more than 3 million displaced Syrians already inside Turkey. Up to 130,000 residents have moved from southern to northern Idlib since December.

Head of Notorious Sednaya Prison Dead, Circumstances Unclear

Brig. Gen. Mahmoud Maatouq, the former head of Sednaya prison where several thousands of detainees were tortured and executed, has died in circumstances.

Maatouq was described by dissidents as “the guardian of hell” and “director of the Sednaya holocaust” because of his leadership of a prison in which between 5,000 and 13,000 prisoners were executed from 2011 to 2015.

See Syria Daily, July 3: Report — Up to 13,000 Killed by Torture Since 2011

Some pro-Assad outlets said Maatouq died of a heart attack. But others said he died in the line of “duty”, with still others saying he was killed in fighting near Harasta in the East Ghouta area.

Pro-Assad forces have been embroiled for weeks in fighting with rebels near the Damascus suburb of Harasta, with the anti-Assad factions threatening to overrun a key base responsible for rocketing and shelling of opposition-held towns.

Turkey: We Have Fired on Kurdish Canton in Afrin

Turkey says it has launched an attack on the Kurdish canton of Afrin in northwest Syria, a day after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave the Kurdish militia YPG a one-week ultimatum to withdraw or face assault.

Turkish media, citing “a source in the region”, said the Turkish military hit YPG targets to prevent a “terror corridor” along Turkey’s borders. At least 40 shells were fired during the bombardment from Turkey’s Hatay Province on the border.

A “security source” also said a military convoy including tanks has been dispatched to the Syrian border.

YPG spokesperson Rojhat Roj said Turkey regularly bombards Afrin, but Saturday’s shelling was more intense and lasted longer: “We are seeing preparations [for an offensive]. The YPG will defend itself against any aggression.”

Turkey has stepped up its military intervention in Idlib and Aleppo Provinces, in part to establish a frontline with Afrin. Ankara considers the Syrian Kurdistan Democratic Unionist Party (PYD) and its YPG militia to be part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK.

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  1. #Idlib: “some mines/IEDs used by Rebels in Jebal Hoss’ villages to slow down Regime, Fatemiyoun Brigade & Hezbollah advances.” – @QalaatAlMudiq
    Rebels learning their lesson, laying these mines in areas they must abandon and creating enough sleeper-cells within regime territories to launch multiple ambushes behind/between regime supply lines when regime units are busy elsewhere is what will cause high attrition rates on regime troops & buy rebels time for future offensives against lost positions. But don’t forget the use of ‘drone swarms’ also, if it worked against Russians military in Hmeimm airbase then it’ll work against regime airbases in Aleppo city and in Hama.
    Also how this for an idea – use 3 or 4 groups of ‘drone swarms’ on regime airbases before or after it has been shelled by rebel MLRs/artillery?

  2. #International: Erdogan finally acting against YPG in Afrin? “#TurkıshArmy destroyed the #YPG/#PKK’s headquarter in #QaraBaba village in #Afrin, near #Turkey border.” – @leventkemaI
    #Idlib: “Unable to secure their gains under heavy Russian air strikes, rebels are using hit and run tacticts to bleed Assad army’s and Iran-backed militias in attempt to break the campaign on Idlib.” – @NorthernStork
    See my other post on Idlib – rebels’ offensives against regime units will only succeed in the long term IF the number of rebel troops infiltrating behind regime lines match the number of rebel units attacking regime units on the front-lines. Success in offensives will only come through infiltration, infiltration, infiltration. If there’s a number 2 & 3 it’d be using alot of mine-traps/booby-traps & ‘drone swarms’ in many regime areas.

    • Take a look at the map in the below link. I’d say it’d be very interesting if rebels decide to divert regime troops from Idlib by launching (after infiltrating it?) a decoy offensive in the Kurnaz area or a surprise offensive south-east of Morek? Or both? (i.e. decoy offensives around Kurnaz & south of Morek).

  3. “Qalaat Al Mudiq
    ‏ @QalaatAlMudiq
    3h3 hours ago

    Attempt to show current situation & dynamics in NW. #Syria:
    – Rebels took back 20+ locations from Regime
    – Regime & #IRGC almost encircled Jebal Hoss
    – #ISIS pocket keeps extending.”
    Good time for the coalition to extend their working area and bomb ISIS. Of course they could declare a no fly zone to keep it safe! That would be a good strategy to keep the Ruskies and Assad from bombing Idlib.

  4. #Hama: “abandoned artillery position & some spoils captured by Ahrar Sham in #Atshan” – @QalaatAlMudiq
    Proof is needed on the usefullness (e.g. not enough regime troops to defend their positions for long) of diverting regime troops away from Idlib by launching (after infiltrating it?) multiple (groups of 3 or 4?) decoy offensives by small groups (no bigger then 100?) in the Hama area (especially decoy/diversionary offensives around Kurnaz & south-eastern Morek).
    Remember this also – this is the 3rd time rebels have captured Atshan and each time Atshan is captured by the regime the regime brings in artillery pieces & shells – the importance of laying mines/booby-traps in areas rebels know they will have to abandon so rebels not only deny regime time to entrench in that position but that rebels would be able to capture that area quickly enough that regime units don’t have the time to destroy the artillery pieces & ATGMs they bring to that area once rebels have abandoned (after laying mines?) it.

  5. On a different note: In case any British posters here who want Hezbollah punished for what they are doing in Syria then I recommend they sign this official e-petition to have the political wing of Hezbollah designated as a terrorist organisation (and thereby ban Hezbollah members from receiving money from the UK?) and pass this petition onto all their friends & relatives in the UK who are also British citizens:

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