BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:45 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) launched a new offensive in the southeastern countryside of the Idlib Governorate on Thursday.
Led by the 25th Special Mission Forces Division (formerly Tiger Forces), the Syrian Arab Army kicked off the offensive by capturing two towns and several points in southeastern Idlib.
According to a Syrian Army source in nearby Hama, this attack on Thursday is the just the preliminary assault. A much larger attack is expected to be launched in the coming days.
Furthermore, the source says the primary objective of this attack in southeastern Idlib is to build a pocket around the key town of Ma’arat Al-Nu’man, which is located directly north of Khan Sheikhoun.
The source added that the Syrian Army will expand the offensive by pushing towards Ma’arat Al-Nu’man from two different axes; these axes will be the southwestern and southeastern flanks of the city.
This battle contingency is similar to the Syrian Army’s previous attacks on Khan Sheikhoun and Kafr Zita. By creating a pocket around the town, the Syrian Army leaves the militant forces with one road to flee the area. If the militants refuse to leave, they will be eventually besieged by the army.
Ma’arat Al-Nu’man may prove to be difficult for the army, however, as the town is well defended and has long been a pro-opposition stronghold.