Months after the start of the offensive and despite heavy bombardment, Assad regime fighters have failed to make significant advances against a determined opposition force.

Fighters loyal to the regime of Bashar al Assad are struggling to make significant gains in their campaign to retake territory from opposition forces in northern Syria.

Months after the start of the offensive in late April this year, the Assad regime has failed to capture any major urban centres despite intense bombardment of territory controlled by Turkish-backed FSA soldiers and other opposition groups.

Mustafa Sejari, a commander and spokesman for the National Liberation Army, told TRT World that his forces had killed “hundreds” of Assad loyalists.

“They thought the battle for Idlib would be like Aleppo and Ghouta and end in a matter of weeks but after two months they’re stuck in a deadlock where their bombing is making no gains or advances on the ground,” he said.

Part of the reason why they have not succeeded, according to Sejari, is a lack of coordination between the aerial campaign dominated by Russia and Assad regime militias on the ground, which are Iranian trained and backed.

According to the Syrian opposition, Iranian forces have not committed fully to the frontline in order to stress their importance in the survival of the Assad regime.

Both Moscow and Tehran are key supporters of the Baathist old guard and their combined intervention in Syria has helped prop up Assad’s rule.

But the two have not always seen eye to eye when it comes to tactics.

Civil defence workers and residents attempt a search operation after Syrian regime attacks on Maar Shurin in Idlib province, a so-called de-escalation zone on June 10, 2019. A ceasefire brokered by Turkey and Russia in Idlib was reported by Russian media on June 12 but war monitors said the de-escalation was short-lived as the regime bombed the countryside in the early hours of Thursday.
Civil defence workers and residents attempt a search operation after Syrian regime attacks on Maar Shurin in Idlib province, a so-called de-escalation zone on June 10, 2019. A ceasefire brokered by Turkey and Russia in Idlib was reported by Russian media on June 12 but war monitors said the de-escalation was short-lived as the regime bombed the countryside in the early hours of Thursday. (AA)

According to Ahmad Rahal, a military analyst and former colonel in the FSA, the failure of Russian-backed forces on the ground - such as the Tiger Force - to score major successes in the Idlib campaign would likely force Moscow to reinstate the status-quo before the campaign. 

“They will restore the political process and reactivate the buffer zones.” Rahal said.

‘Widespread carnage’

The lack of military success, however, does not mean there has been any let-up in civilian suffering.

The Russian air force and Assad regime planes have carried out large-scale air raids against urban areas, while regime ground forces have been involved in heavy shelling.

In the latest example of the threat Assad loyalists pose to civilians in the area, seven children and three women were killed during regime air raids and artillery bombardment on villages in southern Idlib.

Mohammad Hallaj, Director of Response Coordinators Group (RCG), told TRT World that the number of deaths and injuries as a result of the regime campaign continued to mount.

RCG said that 900 people had been killed in regime bombardment since February, with 20 deaths in the first week of July.

The fighting has also displaced upwards of 200,000 people, which Hallaj said was exactly what the Assad regime intended, as it looks to bring about lasting change in the areas it attempts to capture.

“This ongoing military campaign in the demilitarised zones and border areas is aimed at displacing as many local residents as possible and bring about demographic changes in the areas,” he explained. 

Since the start of civil war in Syria, more than 11 million people have been displaced, with more than six million fleeing abroad and five million internally displaced.

The conflict started when the Assad regime brutally put down protests demanding greater freedoms and an end to human rights abuses by security forces.

Responding to the violent crackdown, many Syrians picked up arms against the regime.

The ensuing war has left more than 500,000 people dead.

Source: TRT World