A month ago Al-Masdar reported a possible scenario for what to expect in the battle for the militant bastion Salma in the Latakia governance. It was theorized that the Qasab mountain would play a crucial part in securing the western and north-western flank of Salma, while Kadin would play a crucial part in securing the eastern and north-eastern flank.
Fast forward to a few days ago. With the Qasab mountain secure, the Syrian Arab Army and its allies launch an attack on Mughayriyah and Kadin, quickly capturing a large stretch of area surrounding these two villages. A day later, the Syrian forces push on in the direction of Duwayrikah, threatening to cut of Salma from the north (figure 1). With three flanks secured, the militants inhabiting Salma throw out a desperate call for aid. It would not be enough to stop the Syrian war machine.
Intense airstrikes by Russian warplanes and heavy barrages by Syrian artillery, the militant defences were weakened on January 11. The next morning was the start of the offensive to capture Salma, a long awaited wish for the Syrian command.
On the early morning of January 12, fighters of the Syrian Arab Army and its allies launched an attack on Tartiyah and Mount Kafr Dulbah (figure 2). Forces on the Kadin ridge supported their fellow soldiers by providing covering fire and mortar/artillery strikes on targets occupying Tartiyah and Marj Khawkha. A few hours later Tartiyah and the adjacent mountain were captured and phase 2 of the offensive was started.
The offensive on the Salma suburb was launched from Kafr ‘ Ajuz and Kafr Dulbah, while infantry also attacked the mountaintop overlooking Salma (figure 3). Soldiers occupying the Durin ridge provided covering fire, while the infantry quickly advanced through the suburbs and also took control of the mountaintop. Another few hours later and the Syrian Arab Army was on the doorstep of the village Salma itself. Phase 3 was about to kick off.
While soldiers on Mount Salma provided suppressive fire on militant targets, a large group of Syrian fighters enter Salma from the South (figure 4). Early on, the group split into 3 task forces: one attacking the western side of Salma, on the eastern side while the third group moved through the centre towards the mosque. Slowly the Syrian combatants moved through the village, while dismantling many IEDs that littered Salma. At the start of the evening, the Syrian Army had reached the city centre clearing the mosque. A militant contingent was still present in the northern part of town, but was driven towards Alyu and Marj Khawkha some hours later. With the last militants retreating northward, Salma was in the hands of the Syrian Arab Army.
Fighting is still ongoing at the area between Salma and Marj Khawkha (figure 5). The latter is of vital importance for the militants as it will provide a broad front from the north for a counter attack. However, the small village is now under attack from three sides, making it not very likely the militants will hold out very long. The consequence of losing Marj Khawkha will be discussed in the next article, as well as other possible scenario’s now that the former rebel bastion Salma has been captured by the Syrian Arab Army and its allies.