The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies have launched a large-scale military operation against terrorist groups in the southeastern part of the so-called Greater Idlib region.
The operation, which was launched in the afternoon of December 19, is reportedly led by the SAA’s elite 25th Special Forces Division, previously known as the Tiger Forces. Large units of the army and many pro-government forces are participating in the operation.
SAA troops are now storming Umm Jalal in southeast Idlib. Russian and Syrian warplanes are targeting the town, which is also being pounded by the army’s artillery.
According to pro-government activists, al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and its Turkish-backed allies sustained heavy losses in the first hours of the attack. The SAA reportedly destroyed several positions, vehicles and equipment of the terrorist groups.
Recent reports predicted the operation with some sources revealing that the main goal of the army will be to reopen the M5 highway. The strategic highway links the Syria’s industrial center, Aleppo, with the capital, Damascus.
In order to reopen the highway, the SAA will have to capture Ma`arat al-Nu`man and Saraqib, the biggest two urban centers in southern Idlib.
The SAA will likely make its first gains in the upcoming few hours, as Russian and Syrian airstrikes have already destroyed most of HTS defenses in Umm Jalal and its surroundings.