Following an unclaimed drone attack that killed as many as 100 regime troops and civilians at the Homs Military College in early October, pro-regime forces and Russian warplanes launched a massive, weeks-long campaign of bombardments against opposition-held areas across north-west Syria. Rockets, artillery barrages and airstrikes targeted schools, marketplaces, residential neighborhoods and IDP camps across Idlib, Aleppo, Homs and Latakia provinces, making October the most violent month seen in the north-west in years. There have also been reports of incendiary weapons used against heavily populated civilian areas, in clear violation of international law. The ongoing regime campaign has already claimed the lives of at least 62 people, the vast majority of whom were civilians—including a large proportion of women and children—while 68,000 IDPs have been displaced as they flee front-line and densely populated areas. Meanwhile, a Turkish-brokered ceasefire is currently holding between Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and groups from the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA).
Military Developments in North-West Syria
On 5th October, a drone attack targeted the regime-affiliated Homs Military College. Casualties were high: it is now thought that as many as 100 regime troops and civilians were killed. Curiously, no group claimed responsibility for the attack; in fact, it has still gone unclaimed weeks later.
Outraged by what it called a “cowardly terrorist attack,” the Syrian regime vowed immediate vengeance against opposition-held areas of the north-west, which it claimed was the source of the attack. In the immediate aftermath, the regime appeared to focus bombardments on areas of western Idlib near Jisr al-Shughour—possibly indicating that the regime pinned responsibility on radical groups based in that area—although regime and Russian forces have since expanded bombardments to most opposition-held areas of the north-west.
Russian & Regime Activity
The regime and its allies stepped up a major escalation of bombardment across Idlib, Hama, Aleppo and Latakia provinces in north-west Syria, pummeling dozens of towns with hundreds of rockets and artillery barrages in recent weeks. The sustained bombing campaign resulted in the deaths of at least 52 civilians in recent weeks and the serious wounding of 128 others, the large majority of them women and children.
Russian warplanes also significantly increased airstrikes, targeting towns, villages and IDP camps in north-west Syria and striking with a frequency unseen since before the invasion of Ukraine in early 2022. Russian warplanes struck targets scattered across Idlib, Hama and Aleppo provinces. Together, Russian airstrikes killed at least 10 civilians and wounded 34 others. In total, regime and Russian escalations caused the displacement of about 68,000 people.
Amidst the uptick in regime bombardments, internationally prohibited incendiary weapons were repeatedly used to target schools and residential neighborhoods east of the city of Atarib and in the northern Idlib countryside. While the use of incendiary weapons by the regime has been confirmed, it is still unconfirmed whether the regime used white phosphorus munitions as part of its recent military campaigns.
Radical & Opposition Activity
A group from the hardline Fateh al-Mabin operations room conducted several counter-attacks against pro-regime positions in response to the significant increase in regime bombardments in recent weeks. Fateh al-Mabin fighters succeeded in killing a number of pro-regime troops through front-line attacks and sniper shots.
In late September, hostilities between HTS and the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) erupted and days of heavy clashes ended following a Turkish-brokered ceasefire. The ceasefire appears to be holding for the time being.
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