South Front

Early on June 5, the Israeli Air Force conducted strikes on a Syrian military facility near Masyaf. The strikes were conducted from Lebanese airspace. The Syrian Air Defense Forces intercepted several missiles, however the rest hit their targets. The bombed facility, which is run by the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, is reportedly involved in the development and manufacturing of missiles.

Two improvised explosive devices exploded near a joint Russian-Turkish patrol moving along the M4 highway in southern Idlib on June 4. The explosions happened when the patrol was passing the militant-held town of Arihah. However, they caused no damage to military vehicles or casualties among Turkish or Russian personnel. Despite the incident, the 15th joint patrol became even longer than all the previous ones. It started in the government-held town of Tronba bypassed Arihah and reached the village of Kafer Shalaya.

The slowly but steadily expanding length of Russian-Turkish patrols is a visual confirmation of the implementation of the de-escalation deal reached by Moscow and Ankara. At the same time, the full implementation of the deal still faces serious difficulties due to the presence of terrorist groups in the area. For example, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militants are still in control of Arihah and recent developments show that they are not planning to sit there idly.

Ankara understands this and its forces continue expanding a network of observation posts along the M4 highway to secure the patrols. Recently, the Turkish Army set up positions near Bsanqul, Kafer Shalaya, Urum al-Jawz and Mareian. Nonetheless, without proactive measures to put an end to the terrorist threat, the situation cannot be changed strategically.

Just recently, a new wave of violence rolled across the militant-held part of Greater Idlib after Hayat Tahrir al-Sham detained a member of another radical militant group – Houras al-Din. The militant was detained when he was collecting taxes from locals for military purposes and kept in a Hayat Tahrir al-Sham-run prison in Jisr al-Shughur. Later, Houras al-Din fighters stormed the prison and freed their counterpart.

Earlier, Houras al-Din and the Turkistan Islamic Party criticized Hayat Tahrir al-Sham for having too soft a stance towards the Russian-Turkish de-escalation agreement in southern Idlib. Tensions, caused by the internal struggle for influence and resources, often grow among Idlib militant groups during the ceasefire phases of the conflict. Therefore, if some power wants to unite them and use them as at least a relatively homogenous force, a new escalation would be very useful.

On June 4, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and the US-led coalition launched a security operation against ISIS cells in northeastern Syria. By June 5, SDF units had conducted several raids in a vast area between the the town of al-Shaddadi in the province of al-Hasakah and the government-held town of al-Bukamal in Deir Ezzor province. Up to 6,000 SDF members are reportedly involved in the effort. A total of at least 17 ISIS members have been neutralized so far.

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