The Russian Aerospace Forces launched a large number of airstrikes over the southern countryside of the Idlib Governorate overnight on Thursday, targeting the positions of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS/al-Nusrah) around the town of Abu Dali. Russian jets flying out of the Hmaymim Military Airbase began their attack by launching airstrikes over the towns of Abu Dali and Musharifah.
Not long after launching this attack, the Syrian Army was able to overwhelm the jihadist rebels of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham that were attempting to defend the town; they would then retreat before their entire front-line collapsed.
Momentum against the al-Qaeda insurgents began early this week when the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) scored a new advance in the southeastern countryside of Idlib, capturing a small town that was under jihadist control. Led by elements of the Republican Guard and 4th Mechanized Division, the SAA stormed the town of Al-Ruwaida on Monday, striking the jihadist defenses from its southern flank. With this latest advance in southeast Idlib, the Syrian Army has managed to establish a strong presence in this once jihadist dominated province in northern Syria.
At the same time, elsewhere in Syria thousands of people gathered in Saadallah al-Jabiri square in Aleppo on Thursday to join a military parade marking one-year since the Syrian government retook the city. The military were greeted by many of the city’s residents carrying pro-government banners and images of President Bashar al-Assad.
This is Aleppo in Syria 2017 pic.twitter.com/So8wzOAuWu
— Stan (@StanM3) December 17, 2017
In an interview, one demonstrator was joyous, saying “Thank God, Aleppo won, we are relived. We are very happy with this victory.” Another was optimistic about the war against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS,ISIL) saying, “We hope for the next year that all of the Syrian lands will be liberated from the filth of terrorism. This is Aleppo going back the same as in the past.”
Aleppo witnessed some of the most brutal fighting during the Syrian war, and its population has fallen dramatically since the beginning of the conflict, however, recent estimates put the number of returning previously displaced residents at 600,000. Two streets away from the parade, three people were killed and several more were injured in a mortar attack from armed groups which began shelling the civilian area.