South Front

A part of the M4 highway between the towns of Ayn Issa and Tell Tamir in northeastern Syria has been reopened for civilian traffic. This chunk of the highway is located close to the contact line with the Turkish-occupied area. In previous months, the constant threat of attacks by Turkish-led forces disrupted the movement of civilian vehicles in the area. However, now, the highway is reopened under the supervision of the Russian Military Police. This step will contribute to the strengthening of commercial and social ties between the cities of Aleppo and Hasakah, and the stability in the region, in general.

The reopening of the M4 highway in northeastern Syria did not occur without incidents. Just a few days ago, on May 23, US forces briefly blocked a Russian Military Police convoy east of Tell Tamr. Pro-Damascus sources say that the US-led coalition may try to oppose the restoration of commercial and social links between the government-controlled part of Syria and the areas that remain in the hands of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

At the same time, the Syrian Army, the National Defense Forces and their allies continued operations against ISIS in southern Raqqah, western Deir Ezzor and southern Mayadin. The anti-ISIS efforts were coordinated with the combing operation led by Liwa al-Quds and the National Defense Forces in the countryside of Palmyra. Despite this, ISIS cells still remain active on the both banks of the Euphrates and in the desert area between Palmyra and al-Tanf.

The Turkish military reportedly deployed an MIM-23 Hawk medium-range air defense system in the vicinity of the town of Almastumah in southern Idlib. Earlier in 2020, Turkey sent several MIM-23 Hawk systems to Idlib to support its attack on the Syrian Army there. Now, Ankara is apparently working to strengthen the air defense and EW capabilities of its contingent deployed in the area. According to different sources, the number of Turkish troops in Greater idlib varies from 7,000 to 10,000.

Despite the large Turkish military presence, radical groups have a freedom of actions in their attempts to consolidate their efforts to oppose the implementation of the de-escalation agreement in southern Idlib. Houras al-Din and the Turkistan Islamic Party, both groups allied with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, united their propaganda efforts in the push against the implementation of the de-escalation deal and the expansion of the Russian-Turkish troops within the agreed to security zone on part of the M4 highway in southern Idlib. Right now, these groups are conducting no notable offensive operations or attack on the Syrian Army. Nonetheless, they are actively recruiting new members and training them in the camps created across the region. In these conditions, a new round of escalation is just a matter of time.

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