While the world is following the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) advances in eastern Aleppo, private sources have reported about the large build-up soldiers and logistical supplies in preparation for the Idlib offensive.
Sources report that between 25,000-30,000 soldiers from the Syrian Arab Army, Hezbollah, and Iranian forces are preparing for a major operation in the Idlib countryside that is expected to last for at least three months.
The operation will be launched from several axes, including the Jisr Al-Shughour front located at the western part of the Idlib Governorate.
The Syrian Arab Army will focus on Jabal Al-Zawiyah and Jisr Al-Shughour, while the Iranians and Hezbollah attempt to lift the siege on Kafraya and Al-Fou’aa.
Preliminary estimates expect the Syrian Arab Army to face off against forces from Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham and Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham; they are currently fighting one another in Idlib.
Sources also indicate that the jihadists are at their weakest point inside Idlib, since many fighters were transferred from this province to northern Aleppo.
Although logistical preparations are in the process of completion, the battle is not likely to start for quite some time due to a possible attack by the Syrian Arab Army in northwestern Aleppo.
Without securing the northwestern part of Aleppo, the provincial capital will remain in danger of sporadic attacks by the jihadists.
On the political side, Turkey will not be happy about this operation, but there is little they can do because of the Russian military’s presence with the Syrian Army.
Turkey will likely accelerate the construction of their border fence and help transfer jihadist fighters from northern Aleppo to the Idlib front, but this is the extent of their participation in the battle itself.
Restoring the Syrian Army’s control over the Idlib Governorate is paramount in defeating Al-Qaeda, as it is their headquarters inside Syria and their life-line in this war.
Ali Khalifeh is a Syrian journalist based in Tartous. You can follow him on Twitter @WithinSyriaBlog
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