Armed groups of Muslim terrorist and extremist forces active in the Idlib de-escalation zone in northwestern Syria had a major impact on the development of the situation. Field commanders from the Syrian Salvation Government (former Jabhat al-Nusra, a Muslim terrorist organization banned in Russia) and other religious extremists’ units continued to build up their strongholds. For example, ignoring the Sochi agreement between Russia and Turkey, al-Nusra drove other rebels’ units away from the Damascus-Hama-Homs-Aleppo motorway and took full control of the road in November.
At the same time, terrorists started to launch more artillery and mortar attacks on governmental forces garrisons from the "demilitarized strip" envisaged by the Sochi agreements. On November 24, they attacked several Aleppo neighborhoods with mines staffed with a chlorine-based poison. A total of 107 peaceful residents were injured, with 50 of them taken to local hospitals in grave condition.
On November 25, the Russian Aerospace Forces responded the shelling with several strikes on positions of militants who were preparing new attacks.
A group of Russian military specialists took soil samples and gathered fragments of the ammunition. A laboratory analysis made at Russia's base in Hmeimim showed that those were home-made mines, which proves that militants were involved in the crime. All documents were passed to the Syrian side, which is soon going to present them in the UN Security Council.
The command of the Russian military group in Syria noted significant rise in sabotage activities of militants directed against Russian military infrastructure and said that it was important to take decisive actions against terrorists in "the Idlib de-escalation zone." At the same time, the Russian and the Syrian leadership adhere to the undertaken obligations to temporarily freeze the prepared peace-enforcement operation, which the Turkish side insisted on. It is expected that the leaders of the countries guaranteeing peace in Syria will make a decision on actions against terrorists in Idlib after the talks with representatives of the Syrian opposition that started in Astana.
In early November, Syrian troops together with Russian special operation units encircled up to 500 Muslim extremists and completely destroyed them at the administrative border between the Damascus and As-Suwayda governorates. This allowed to drastically improve security situation in southern Syria.
The situation remained tense in the eastern part of the Deir Ezzor governorate, where the U.S.-led "Western coalition" had been trying to put out the last hotbed of ISIL resistance (ISIL is a terrorist organization banned in Russia) near the community of Hajin on the eastern (left) bank of the Euphrates.
In November, the encircled terrorists repeatedly tried to launch an offensive on the northwestern front seeking to establish control over the Al-Tanf oil-rich district. The latest attack launched by more than 500 militants secured the breach of the first line of defense and inflicted considerable damage. The defending Arab-Kurdish units of the Syrian Democratic Forces that are a part of "the Western coalition" lost 92 people killed and over 300 wounded in just one day of hostilities.
The coalition command is now taking urgent measures to increase its group of forces in the district. Additional units of Kurds and Syrian tribes, arms and hardware are being deployed there. It is possible that the Pentagon will soon make a decision to launch an offensive operation in order to eliminate a terrorist group of around 2,000 militants in the eastern part of the Deir Ezzor province.
The key provision of the agenda of the 11th round of the Syrian talks that started in Astana will be to work out a common base to launch discussion about a new Syrian Constitution draft in Geneva late this year. Representatives of Russia, Turkey and Iran intend to discuss the persisting presence of illegal armed groups in northwestern and northeastern Syria.