(Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images)
Ten Syrian Arab Army (SAA) soldiers and three militants from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) extremist group were killed and injured in heavy clashes on 4 February between the two sides in Jabal al-Akrad in the western Latakia governorate.
“Militants of Othman bin Affan Brigade [of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham] attacked this morning a headquarters of the government forces on the outskirts of Talat al-Burkan in Jabal al-Akrad, north of Latakia city,” a Syrian military source told North Press Agency (NPA).
“Militants of HTS infiltrated into posts of the government forces, sparking clashes that led to 10 deaths and injuries of the Syrian government forces and three injuries of HTS militants,” the military source added.
Following the clashes, the SAA responded to the infiltration attempt by targeting HTS positions with heavy bombardment in the governorates of Latakia, Hama, and Idlib – where the former Al-Qaeda affiliate is based.
These clashes come in the midst of a recent surge in militant activity across Syria, which has intensified following the start of the Turkish-Syrian reconciliation process as a result of the armed opposition’s rejection of Turkiye’s diplomatic turn.
This Turkish-Syrian diplomacy, which is still in its early stages, has resulted in several clashes between the SAA and armed groups including HTS and others. The reconciliation talks have also instigated a sharp rise in attacks, ambushes, and explosions against Syrian forces, particularly in Deraa.
Meanwhile, the US-backed Kurdish militia, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), released a statement on 5 February announcing the arrest of 210 ISIS militants, according to Al-Hadath TV, as part of an anti-ISIS operation which began on 25 January and ended on 2 February.
“Our forces confiscated stockpiles of weapons, explosives, explosive belts, and extremist leaflets, which were used to attract new recruits to the ranks of the Islamic State,” the SDF statement read.
The Kurdish-led anti-ISIS operation came in response to the surge in ISIS activity across different regions of Syria over the past year, including in the east and northeast, which many have suggested has been encouraged by Washington to create a pretext for prolonging its occupation in the country.
According to exclusive information provided by Syrian field sources to The Cradle, communication channels exist between Washington’s occupation base in Al-Tanf and ISIS cells which have been carrying out hit-and-run attacks against the SAA in the Syrian Desert, also known as the Al-Badia region, over the past year.