Following the devastating loss of Palmyra on Sunday, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) set up a new defensive line a few kilometers west of the famed city while exploring a potential counter-offensive.
Despite being heavily outnumbered, with some 1,000 government troops against an estimated 4,000-5,000 invading ISIS militants, several hundred additional Syrian soldiers arrived on Sunday afternoon in order to stiffen the SAA’s defenses and boost morale.
The new defensive line was reinforced exclusively by the ‘Qalamoun Shield’, a largely tribal faction of the Syrian Armed Forces which has its roots in the mountainous Damascus countryside. This unit will join elements of the SAA’s 11th Division, 18th Division, the National Defence Forces (NDF) and ‘Shaheen Group’ (Tiger Forces branch).
Should the Military High Command pursue a counter-offensive, SAA commanders could approach the task in two different ways.
In one scenario, the SAA would launch a rapid and remorseless counter-attack, thus denying ISIS any chance to fortify Palmyra and set up minefields on its vicinity; unfortunately, this instigates heavy casualties. Another somewhat cautious strategy would be to gradually retake the mountains around Palmyra while simultaneously unleashing Russian warplanes and Syrian artillery firepower on Islamic State positions inside the city.
In any case, the Syrian Armed Forces must bring in additional military personnel if government forces are to mount an unstoppable counter-offensive. However, mopping up the battle for Aleppo is absolutely instrumental for this to happen as most of the SAA’s seasoned soldiers are currently tied up in Syria’s largest city.
Pictures of Sunday’s Qalamoun Shield reinforcements can be found below: