On January 28, units of the Syrian Army, led by the 25th Special Mission Forces Division, liberated the town of Maarat al-Numan, the Wadi Al-Deif military base and nearby villages from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other al-Qaeda-linked groups.
Earlier on the same day, a Turkish military convoy consisting of at least 30 vehicles entered Syria through the Kafr Lusein crossing and moved to the south. This was mostly a tactical manoeuver designed to demonstrate to pro-Turkish militant groups that Ankara was not going to surrender its positions in Idlib. Nonetheless, the only thing that these Turkish forces are able to do is to establish another observation point in the region. Local sources say that this point will be set up south of Saraqib.
Another area where Hayat Tahrir al-Sham forces suffered setbacks is southwestern Aleppo, where government troops pushed militants away from the Khan Tuman farms and delivered a blow to militant formations deployed in the Rashidin 5 area.
On January 29, government forces continued their operations on both frontlines. The current priority of the Syrian Army in southeastern Idlib is to secure the chunk of the M5 highway between Khan Shaikhun and Maarat al-Numan. After this, the militant strong points in Kafr Nubl and Kafr Sajnah will likely become the next target of the army offensive. Their liberation is crucial if government troops want to create a proper defense against possible militant attacks from the Zawiyah Mountain area.
Saraqib, located on the crossroad of the M4 and M5 highways, is also a high priority target. Nonetheless, an advance in this direction is unlikely in the immediate future.
In Western Aleppo the Syrian Army seeks to liberate Khan Tuman, Rashidin 4 and Rashidin 5 in order to limit the number of mortar and rocket attacks on Aleppo city by militants.
The Syrian military, supported by the Russian air power and special forces, launched an offensive in Greater Idlib on December 19, 2019. Since then, pro-government forces have liberated over 50 settlements in the south and the east of the Idlib de-escalation zone. As long as al-Qaeda-linked factions remain the core of the so-called Idlib opposition and Turkish-backed groups cooperate with them, such military operations in the area will continue.
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