Massive escalation in Russian air strikes against the Idlib province in northwest Syria was registered on Friday. Strikes were far-reaching and touched on border areas with Turkey, amid expectations that the raids pave the way for an imminent military operation to expel Al Qaeda-linked militants from the Syrian province.
The escalation followed the meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, during which political sources cited that Syrian opposition ‘deliberately’ embarrassed Turkish authorities by formally requesting that Russia oversees a cease-fire in northern Syria.
But other sources said the Russian bombing could be part of an agreement with Turkey to expel the al-Sham Liberation Organization (an al-Qaeda affiliate) from its stronghold in Idlib.
It was noted that the Russian aircraft expanded its shelling of the countryside Idlib on Friday to include points adjacent to Turkish borders, as information came in about the violation of Turkish airspace during the exercises to bombardment, and dozens of strikes targeted over 42 towns and villages in the northern countryside of this province.
On the other hand, dozens of elements of the Syrian regime and its allies have been killed in large-scale attacks launched by ISIS protecting their outposts in central Syria, where the killing of 14 members of Hezbollah, the largest loss of the party suffered since its participation in the battles of the Syrian Badia against ISIS.
Hezbollah members fought alongside the Syrian pro-regime forces to recover ground lost during an ISIS counterattack in eastern Syria that targeted positions on the road between Deir al-Zor and Palmyra, a commander in the pro-Damascus alliance said.
Hours later, the military information unit of Hezbollah said that the Syrian army and its allies had managed to secure the road from Palmyra to Deir al-Zour after foiling the violent attack.
The assault marked the first major counterattack against the Syrian army and its allies since they broke through a swathe of ISIS-held territory to reach the city of Deir al-Zor earlier this month.