, 20 tweets, 13 min read Read on Twitter
My take on the #SAA's #Idleb offensive for the @MiddleEastInst , It is set to be Syria's fiercest battle thus far and a prolonged, violent, and ultimately costly campaign

@MiddleEastInst 1. The aims of the #Idleb offensive are pretty clear so far. Firstly - retaking the #Damascus-Aleppo highway.
Secondly - retaking #Idlib city, the provincial capital held by opp since 2015.
@MiddleEastInst 2. The town of Kafr Nabudah is now the epicenter of a battle that may decide the early outcome of the offensive, town has changed hands several times, imperative for #SAA to keep it if campaign is to be successful
@MiddleEastInst 3. Article draws on information within government-held areas, Rabea Kalawandy, a reporter embedded with #SAA noted that “army decided to start an operation initially from Hama countryside and Latakia with the aim of advancing as deep as possible into Idlib"
@MiddleEastInst 4. The #Idlib operation will be a long-drawn-out affair and more challenging than initially anticipated for #SAA. retaking #KafrNaboudeh was important but undermined by struggles in Kabani (Latakia axis)
@MiddleEastInst 5. Colonel Ghiath al-Dala’s elite forces of the 4th Armored Division, generally thought to be the government’s most effective troops, have been bogged down & repelled in #Kabani, unless progress is made the ground-offensive wont gather momentum
@MiddleEastInst 6. The fight for #Idlib will be long and hard, although #SAA has complete air superiority & firepower and is using it to devastating effect, it will need a well-coordinated ground assault to penetrate #Idlib.
@MiddleEastInst 7. Involvement of HTS in the defense of #Idlib has been crucial and controversial & will continue to be so as long as the offensive goes on as was its pivotal role in the initial capture of #KafrNabudah
@MiddleEastInst 8. #Idlib operation will be difficult: terrain is rough and mountainous, ideal for ambushes, and provides plenty of cover for opp fighters, who have effectively used anti-tank missiles to devastating effect, knocking out several Syrian army tanks and vehicles.
@MiddleEastInst 9. Moreover #SAA not just fighting an array of different rebel/militant groups #Idlib; its also deal with the long-term consequences and end result of its own policy of evacuations and negotiated deals across the country
@MiddleEastInst 10. Deals from #Damascus to #Homs #Aleppo and so on have seen rebels, militants, and civilians alike bussed from all corners of the country to this one final province, which is now the "Wild West" of #Syria
@MiddleEastInst 11. As #Russia & Syrian army announce "humanitarian corridors" to be opened in towns Morek and Abu Duhur its important to remember that influx of civilians to gov-held areas from #Idleb is highly unlikely at the moment.
@MiddleEastInst 12. If the History of the war in #Syria teaches us anything its that "Humanitarian Corridors" are generally a sign of further escalation, re - #Aleppo, East #Ghouta ect.
13. Talk of truces & ceasefires over #Idleb seemingly premature as fierce airstrikes & bombardment continue around north #Hama and south #Idleb this evening.
14. This evening aside, there are rumours of a Turkish-Russian brokered truce over #Idleb, set to go into effect at some point over the next few days.
15. Mixed reports this morning suggesting that the Syrian army has halted it's ground offensive into #Idlib, perhaps in advance of a Russian-Turkish brokered truce. Watch this space.
16. Strikes & bombardment continue over parts of Northern #Hama & South #Idleb
17. Another wave of Grad attacks on the town of Qamhaneh in N. #Hama
18. 48 hour Russian-Turkish brokered truce set to go into effect over northern #Hama & #Idlib
19. This offensive will be slow, prolonged and phased. Truces, ceasefires and humanitarian corridors will be established as Russia & Turkey negotiate, escalation remains inevitable, but pauses will be frequent.
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