The sources said their information shows that the army plans to halt its major offensive on ISIL’s de facto capital, Raqqa, in Northeastern Syria until Iraq fully liberates Mosul and imposes full control over the border with Syria.
“Then the Syrian army that has just liberated Aleppo city will get ready to start a large-scale operation in Idlib province that is the main bastion of Fatah al-Sham Front (previously known as the al-Nusra Front),” they added.
The sources cited worrying humanitarian conditions as a major cause of the imminent operations in Idlib city. “In the meantime, deep internal differences among Fatah al-Sham and other terrorist groups in the city will make the military operation easier there.”
The sources said that Russian fighter jets are due to carry out over 5,000 combat sorties over militants’ positions in Idlib and the Syrian army’s missile and artillery units will also launch over 1,500 attacks on Fatah al-Sham’s gatherings and concentration centers before the ground assault.
“After a week of heavy missile, artillery and air attacks and complete destruction of Fatah al-Sham’s bases, the ground operation will kick off,” they added.
A media expert said on Sunday that the army which recently liberated Aleppo from terrorists would focus in 2017 on boosting its positions around the city and then would engage to retake control over Palmyra and, possibly, continue an offensive on Idlib.
It is expected that in 2017, the “Syrian Army will focus its efforts on preventing possible counteroffensives by militants. The military will also protect infrastructure facilities and residential areas which are already controlled by the government. Another important goal is retaking Palmyra,” said Igor Korotchenko, chief editor of the Russian magazine National Defense, RIA Novosti reported.
On December 16, the Russian Defense Ministry’s center for Syrian reconciliation said that the Syrian army operation to liberate Aleppo’s Eastern neighborhoods was over, and that Syrian government troops were eliminating separate hotbeds of militant resistance.
On Thursday, the Syrian army declared victory in Aleppo as the last convoy with militants left the city’s east.
The liberation of Aleppo from the radical element is the most important component of a full normalization in Syria, and I hope in the region as a whole,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
ISIL terrorists first seized the ancient city of Palmyra in spring 2015 and a year later was forced out by Syrian government troops with air support from Russian jets.
On December 11, Palmyra was recaptured by the ISIL, which pushed the Syrian army out and forced units to regroup at an airbase dozens of miles westward from the city. The expert underscored that the importance of retaking Palmyra is due to its strategic locations and unique cultural artefacts. “Another task is to improve combat capabilities of the Syrian Army and boost morale of Syrian troops. Then, the army may launch an operation to liberate Idlib,” he suggested.