Following reports of a dramatic escalation of Russian airstrikes against northwestern Syria, the Syrian military is launching a “major offensive” against the rebels in the area north of Hama, in the area spanning the Hama and Idlib Provinces.
Russian airstrikes included cruise missiles fired from the Caspian Sea, a first for the Russian military involvement in Syria. From the first strikes Russia launched last week, there is particular interest in striking the area around Hama Province, so it’s unsurprising this first coordinated offensive is there.
Rebel control over parts of Hama Province, and the city itself, have been a problem for the Syrian military for awhile, particularly as al-Qaeda has expanded control in the Idlib Province and have tried to expand deeper into Hama, Aleppo, and Latakia Provinces from there.
Russia’s naval base in Syria is just south of Latakia, so it’s unsurprising to see they are keen to shore up defense of the area, and the Syrian military doubtless believes it has a better chance retaking al-Qaeda-run Idlib and the surrounding area, particularly with Russian help, in the near term than they do in retaking the vast territory held by ISIS.
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