The Idlib de-escalation zone is located in the north-west of Syria and covers the entire territory of the province of Idlib, as well as a number of districts in the provinces of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia. In this enclave there are up to 30-40 thousand armed fighters of the so-called National Liberation Front (NLF), headed by the Committee for the Liberation of Syria (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, a terrorist group banned in Russia).
The NLF was created under the auspices of Turkey, which back in September 2018 pledged to withdraw heavy weapons from all the units of illegal armed groups and to ensure complete safety of transport links along the main highways between the central and northern regions of Syria. Ankara failed to get the Turkish-loyal rebels to comply with the demand.
The reason for the start of the military operation was the intensification of the terrorists' armed activities against the Syrian government forces and Russian military facilities amid the rebels ' refusal to fulfill the terms of agreements reached between Turkey and Russia in Sochi.
During the first phase of the operation, which began in the second half of April, the Syrian army focused on the suppression of located strongholds; weapon, equipment and ammunition warehouses; headquarters; communication centers and control points on the front line and in the depth of hostile positions.
The key task was to destroy as many fighters as possible and prepare directions for subsequent attacks. At the same time, the main role in this task was assigned to artillery, combat and army aviation of the Syrian air force aided by the Russian aerospace forces.
And the task had been successfully accomplished: by mid May, the enemy was forced to bring its main forces to the forward defense line, particularly the units of the former al-Nusra and other radical Muslim organizations. These very days the terrorists' irretrievable losses began to number in the hundreds. The group's commander Abu Muhammad al-Julani was forced to speak on local radio on May 13, urging the enclave's male population to join the resistance.
On May 12, 2019 the Syrian government army entered the next stage of its military operation, launching an active offensive against a number of enemy defense sites in the north-west of the provinces of Hama and Idlib, while concentrating artillery fire and massive air strikes in the western part of Aleppo and Latakia.
The two days of the offensive alone saw units of the Syrian government force knocking the enemy out of dozens of settlements to split the terrorists' defense. Marked by high intensity, the fighting is being conducted day and night, with the Syrian command actively using special purpose groups behind the enemy lines to destroy field commanders, headquarters, control points, weapon and ammunition warehouses, as well as separate artillery positions of terrorists.
At the same time, the operation leadership has so far refrained from putting into battle the main forces intended for advancing the attack and a rapid dispersal of the rebel group. Their major strongholds are suppressed by high-precision increased capacity aircraft weapons, the use of which causes panic among the terrorists. As well as the actions by special purpose groups.
At present, the peace enforcement operation in the Idlib de-escalation zone has entered its most crucial and difficult phase to become a challenge to the Syrian command's on-line decision-making and timely provision of troops with the necessary material supplies.
Given the presence of Russian military advisers and specialists among the Syrian troops, we can safely assume that the Syrians will rather quickly carry out the tasks of defeating the main enemy forces in the country's north-west.