Two weeks have passed since the Syrian army launched a military operation in "the Idlib de-escalation zone." Almost the whole contact line is witnessing combat actions and clashes of various intensity between governmental troops and illegal armed groups. The heaviest fighting is on in the northwest and the northeast of the Hama province and in the south of the Idlib province. The core offensive effort is centered in these theaters of operations.
Mainly units of the Free Syrian Army, staffed with servicemen who deserted from the Syrian army and who have war experience, are the main adversary of the governmental army. Militants of radical Islamic organizations are partly involved in defensive operations and are fighting in the Hama province, too. Military intelligence shows that there are up to 30,000 militants equipped with tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, combat personal carriers, quite a large number of field artillery, multiple rocket and grenade launchers in this terrorist enclave.
Syrian troops are attacking the adversary that skillfully organized comprehensive defense in depth and that equipped strongholds outside and inside towns and villages in advance. Hostilities are characterized by extreme violence and stickiness. Some communities change hands several times. The adversary is efficiently using maneuvers of troops and forces and swiftly redeploying militant groups to enhance defense at sections coming under threat.
Governmental artillery is intensively shelling militants' strongholds and firing positions trying to inflict as much damage as possible. The Russian Aerospace Forces and the Syrian Air Force have the same task.
By the end of May 11, Syrian troops had advanced in southern Idlib province and western Hama province taking 7 communities.
Two weeks after the operation began its concept has been coming to shape. At the first stage, which is currently underway, the Syrian army should destroy the adversary's main strongholds, break the continuity of defense, exhaust illegal armed groups by continuous artillery and aircraft attacks and deliver the utmost damage to troops and equipment. This task has yet to be completed.
The second stage will see a decisive attack of the main forces that will seek dividing the enemy's group, entrapping militants and subsequently destroying them.
The Syrian army command has already gained considerable successful experience of such actions, while intermediate officers are ready for fighting in a rapidly changing situation and offensive operations in towns. Nevertheless, the main forces of the Syrian army attacking group are currently in the rear and should be engaged after the first stage is over.
The Syrian military and political leadership has not officially announced the beginning of the operation in the enclave. However, it was clear for the leadership of countries that are involved in the Syrian domestic political conflict that Syria and Russia had for a long time been preparing a military operation to neutralize illegal armed groups in "the Idlib zone." That is why there has been no fierce opposition to Damascus's and Moscow's plans on the international area so far.
The Turkish military and political leadership has continued taking a very critical stance on actions in Syria trying to first of all instill loyalty in its allies with the Syrian irreconcilable opposition and show that it is "resolved not to leave them face to face with the Syrian government army."
"Turkey is doing all it can to stop hostilities in Idlib and is involved in active negotiations with Russia in order to put pressure of the Syrian authorities," Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar said in Turkey's province of Hatay.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that Ankara will not fervently protect Syria's armed opposition, while speeches of Turkish politicians are most likely to be declarative. When the events in "the Idlib zone" began, Turkish news agencies reported about alleged agreements between Russia and Iran on coordinating efforts in Idlib and northeastern Syria, where armed units of Syrian Kurds are located.