Syria Military Brief – North-West Syria -4 March 2021

A state of relative calm prevails across north-west Syria with the ceasefire generally holding other than exchanges of artillery shelling.  Small-scale operations and violations continue with limited operations conducted on both sides, however these are not escalating and do not indicate a return to full-scale combat.  Around eight civilians were killed in regime shelling throughout February. Turkish military reinforcements to the north-west has slowed, with only one military column entering the area over the last month.

Attached Map: Military Situation in North-West Syria – 4th March 2021

Military Situation

  • Regime violations: Despite the relative calm, regime force continue to target civilian areas with artillery shelling, with a focus on south Idlib and west Hama provinces. Jabal A-Zawiya area remains a focus, south of the M4; five civilians were killed and others were injured when the regime hit Bara with two missiles (8.2). Eight civilians were killed and around 20 were injured, including children, in such incidences throughout February. Regime forces are conducting some minor operations and attempts to advance on frontlines, three such incidences occurred in February on Al-Ankawi axis in north Hama province (7.2), Majarez in south Idlib (13.2), and in rural east Aleppo province on the Tadef axis (19.2). All such attempts were blocked by opposition forces and armed groups in the area.
  • Russian airstrikes: Limited Russian airstrikes are conducted on a weekly basis (3.2, 14.2, 23.2, 26.2), there is no escalation in these strikes, and they appear to be targeting specific military targets, with few casualties.
  • Reinforcement: Some regime reinforcements continue to arrive in the area, however these are small scale. The regime’s Russian-backed Brigade 16 and Division 25 redeployed to Al-Bab (16.2) from western rural Hama, this involved the redeployment of significant military equipment and vehicles. These Russian-backed forces are likely to have been moved to reinforce regime and Russian positions on existing frontlines, and not part of a redeployment for future operations.
  • Opposition operations: Extremist groups, within the Al-Fateh Al-Mabeen operations room and opposition forces from the National Liberation Front are also violating the ceasefire conducting minor operations, including regular sniper fire on regime and Russian targets.  National Liberation Front forces hit a Russian operations HQ in Kafranbel (7.2), killing a Russian officer and wounding others accompanying him. Other such incidences in rural north Latakia on the Nahshaba axis, led to the wounding of two Russian officers after they were hit with opposition artillery fire (14.2).  Two drones were downed, one above Jabal A-Zawiya (7.2), the other, a Russian drone was downed above Sahel Al-Ghab, rural west Hama (14.2).

Turkish Movements

  • Turkish reinforcement: There has been a significant reduction in Turkish columns and reinforcements to Idlib in recent weeks. February only saw one column enter the area (8.2). A new Turkish military point was established in Sahel Al-Ghab (14.2), rural west Hama province.
  • M4 cameras: Turkish forces began installing surveillance cameras on the M4, beginning this installation in south Idlib in Ariha, reaching the town of Badama in west Idlib. Cameras were also placed near the towns of Jisr al-Shughour, Jisr al-Kufir, Urum al-Jawz and Ariha.  It appears the goal behind this operation is to monitor the road continuously, for fear of repeating the past targeting of Russian patrols.


Humanitarian Developments

  • Coronavirus: Around 10 new Corona cases are confirmed in Idlib on a daily basis, with the total active cases now reaching 2,159 cases, with 408 having died from the virus. While these numbers appear to be under control, there are limited tests being conducted (only around 300 per day), limiting the number of cases which can be detected.