Ceasefire, reversals never stopped war in Latakia

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Fighting has been fierce in Latakia ever since Jaysh al-Fatah’s offensive in the spring of 2015. The rebels used their momentum to fight toward the coast. Only with the deployment of Russian air power did the tide begin to turn against them. By December, pro-government forces had pushed the opposition backward to the northeast.

But coming events would test the ability of the loyalists to cope without some of their typical advantages. The rebels maintained only a foothold in Latakia, an important defensive buffer for their stronghold of Idlib.

National Defense Forces promo celebrates government success in Latakia, Dec. 3. 

On Dec. 20, 2015, government forces captured a Yacoubar, connecting Kabani and Salma, wrote Al-Masdar News. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported bombing in Salma and fighting throughout the rest of the mountains. Government forces then moved against Kabani from the south, attacking Jabal Zuwayqat, reported Al-Masdar News. Days later, the pro-government source announced the recapture of Jabal al-Nuba.

Iranian outlet Al-Alam also reported government advances in the Latakia mountains. Sputnik corroborated government control of Jabal al-Nuba and Jabal Al-Sayed. Loyalists also took the villages of Talat al-Awda, Katf al-Harami and Ayn Sharouq, according to Al-Masdar News. SOHR reported ongoing clashes at Tal Ghazaleh, where opposition forces captured three government fighters. Russian officials celebrated the success of the offensive, wrote TASS. On Dec. 28, government forces captured Katf al-Alamah, north of Katf al-Harami, according to Al-Masdar News.

Jabal al-Islam displays captured loyalist fighters, uploaded on Dec. 26, 2015.

Meanwhile in Idlib, women reported marrying foreign fighters due to desperate circumstances. Abu Muhammad Shafiq, a judge at the court, told reporters that foreign fighters often refuse to register their marriages with the court. He added that these marriages often involve women under 20 years old and are often motivated by poverty.

On Dec. 31, El-Dorar al-Shamia claimed Russian jets bombed pro-government forces at Jabal al-Nuba.  The troops in question were Shia from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, the report emphasized. Government forces allegedly kept activists in Latakia away from Zahi Azrak military hospital, where the wounded were brought. No photos were provided.

Government forces continued their offensive in Latakia. Loyalists captured Qassab, Burj Al-Qassab and Beit Fares, according to pro-government sources. TASS reported the capture of several heights along the Turkish border.

First Coastal Division TOW gunner Abu Hamza denies reports of his capture by the SAA.

On Jan. 2, government forces repelled an opposition counterattack upon Qassab’s northern flank, according to Al-Masdar News. Fighting and bombardment continued throughout Jabal al-Akrad, Jabal al-Turkman and Burj al-Qasab, wrote SOHR.

Failaq al-Sham announced it would withdraw from Jaysh al-Fatah, reports indicated. The group cited the success of the operation room in Idlib and a need for troops in Aleppo. Meanwhile, Russia’s Varyag – a guided missile cruiser – passed through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean, wrote Al-Alam.

Loyalist troops took control of Ruweisat al-Qubayb, wrote Al-Masdar News. Warplanes struck Salma a couple of days later, according to SOHR.

In Latakia, some local businesses reported an uptick in sales due to Russian servicemen in the area. One shopkeeper told AFP he has seen a 20 percent increase in sales. Another establishment, Cafe Moscow, reportedly served Russian customers for free. Russian entertainers performed in the region to boost morale, wrote BBC News on Jan. 6.

Ruweisat Abu Ghannam, Ruweisat al-Sheikh Salman, Jabal al-Hurrah, Jabal Beit Fares, and al-Saraf, according to Al-Masdar News. SOHR reported clashes between the opposition and government troops, helicopters and airstrikes around Jabal al-Akrad and Jabal al-Turkman. Other pro-government sources reported advances by government forces in the following days.

Jets strike around Salma. 

Pro-government forces fight around Kadin, east of Salma.

Loyalists fight around GhumaamEyad Al-Hosain.

On Jan. 12, Syrian state television reported the capture of the opposition stronghold of Salma and it’s surrounding heights. Citing the television report, news agencies wrote that government forces worked to clear mines and traps set by the opposition. Pro-rebel SOHR also conveyed this report.

National Defense Forces post a video from Salma. 

NDF promo on the capture of Salama. 

The same day, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that Russia was using the war against ISIS as a pretext to form a “boutique Syrian state in Latakia and surrounding region,” wrote Daily Sabah. Days later, Russian officials asserted that Salma had been controlled by the Islamic State. They said members of the “patriotically-minded Syrian opposition” helped in Salma’s capture from the Islamic State, wrote TASS.

In Latakia city, hundreds of volunteers under 50 years old were undergoing a two-week army training course, reported TASS. After completing the training, the recruits would do security in government-controlled areas and man checkpoints. The Syrian Government took control of around 300 square km in Latakia over three months, wrote Al-Alam on Jan. 15.

The loyalist advance went on. Government forces took al-Kindisiyah, al-Sukkariyeh, Jabal Khanadiq, Jabal Kazbar and Jabal al-Sindyan, according to Press TV. Al-Masdar News wrote that government forces now aimed to take Kinsabba, a town along Latakia’s border with Idlib. Pro-government sources continued to celebrate loyalist advances through the region.

Opposition forces counterattacked at Atayra on Jan. 18. Both sides boasted success. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported government advances in northern Latakia. On Jan. 20, opposition forces took Ayn al-Hawr, Wadi Shaykhan and al-Ghunaymiyah, acknowledged Al-Masdar News. However, the pro-government outlet wrote that loyalists managed to reverse most of the advances.

Jabhat Ansar Al-Din attacks a government position in Jabal al-Turkman. 

Jaysh al-Fatah fighters bombard government positions.

On Jan. 20, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, commented on the situation in Syria. He said the Syrian Government had improved its situation with help from its Russian allies. Analysis by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace seemed to agree with his assessment. The group acknowledged the value of rocket artillery and airstrikes against the opposition, which prevented them from maintaining static positions. Calls for reinforcements by Latakia-based rebel groups appeared consistent with the government’s success.

Much of the government’s advances stemed from the Russian air campaign that began in late September 2015. Unnamed activists near Hmeymim Airbase told AFP about their use of WhatsApp to warn opposition territory about incoming warplanes. By monitoring the takeoff and direction of Russian jets, they are able to give advance notice to civilians and opposition fighters. Hani Haidar, a journalist in Latakia, told Al-Monitor that the city has been quiet since government forces pushed the opposition away from the metro area.

Citing SOHR, reports emerged of government progress toward Rabia, within 5km (3 miles) of the city. SANA reported government advances across Latakia throughout the day of Jan. 22.

Two days later, the Syrian state TV announced the capture of Rabia. During that time, loyalist forces had surrounded the town on the north, south and west, wrote AFP.  The opposition had held Rabia since 2012, reported AFP. The advance preceded diplomatic talks in Geneva by a few days, Reuters noted. Government forces also took 6 km of the Aleppo-Latakia highway, wrote El-Akbar.

After the fall of Rabia, the opposition’s two most formidable holdings were Kinsabba and Kabani, wrote Al-Masdar News. Refugees supporting the opposition began to return to Idlib rather than face the government advance, wrote Syria Direct. Reuters published images of government forces during the offensive.

Government artillery bombarded opposition positions around Kinsabba, wrote Al-Alam on Jan. 28. Orient News acknowledged government advances toward Kinsabba, and reported clashes near Salma and Rabia.

Government forces captured Mezzin in their advance toward Kinsabba, wrote Al-Masdar News. The advance continued to al-Nimr and Toumal, which lead to Kinsabba, the report added. The capture of Kinsabba would allow government forces to isolate opposition positions and hamper their supply lines through the Turkish border, wrote Al-Alam. Loyalist soldiers told Xinhua that the Russian air support greatly improved their morale, on top of its tactical benefits.

Meanwhile, Syrian Turkmen began to evacuate the town of Yamadi and crossing into Turkey, reported Reuters. Sources reportedly feared airstrikes and clashes as the front lines drew closer.

Pro-government sources reported the shelling of loyalist forces in the north by Turkish forces on Feb. 1. Opposition forces successfully retook Nuwarah, wrote Al-Masdar News. Government troops made progress toward Ara, and attacked Mezzin and Brouma, according to Al-Masdar News.

Opposition forces took credit for killing four Russian generals during a meeting around Jabal al-Turkman. Russian officials later acknowledged the death of one officer on Feb. 1 and blamed ISIS for his death, wrote Albawaba.

Sham Corps captures three government troops in the Latakia countryside. 

New SU-35 fighter jets deployed to Hmeymim Airbase in Latakia City, wrote TASS. Government troops captured Aliyah, reported Al-Alam on Feb. 6. The opposition used Aliyah as a transport hub for weapons, according to Press TV. Fighting continued throughout Jabal al-Akrad, wrote SOHR.

Loyalist forces captured Bashura, wrote Al-Masdar News on Feb. 7. In the midst of the government rebuttal, TASS touted the successful coordination of pro-government troops and Russian air power.

On Feb. 8, SANA announced the capture of al-Hoor, al-Rweisat, al-Sweidia and al-Wadi al-Azrak. An anonymous source told Xinhua that the capture of Kansabah would complete the recapture of Latakia Goverornate. Clashes and bombardment occurred around Bashara and Qardaha, wrote SOHR.

On Feb. 9, Tasnim News Agency reported that government forces had surrounded Kinsabba. Loyalist troops took control of Bashoura, wrote Sputnik. From Bashoura, they began to focus on Kabani, which is a gateway to Jisr al-Shugour and al-Sirmaniyah, according to Al-Masdar News. En route to Kinsabba, the loyalists captured the village of Saraf, wrote Al-Masdar News.

Eyad Al-Hosain overlooks areas around Kinsabba. 

Opposition forces launched a counter attack and took Tel Qroujah, wrote ARA News. Government sources told ARA News that their withdraw was tactical in nature, and that the lost ground would be retaken. In spite of their squeezed supply lines, opposition forces reported receiving a fresh batch of Grad missiles. However, EA Worldview reported that they did not receive additional new launchers to go with the missiles.

Pro-government forces stormed Ara from the east, south and west, according to Al-Masdar News.

Clashes continued around Kinsabba and Shalaf. Government forces took control of Ballah and Shalaf, setting them up for an assault on Kinsabba, wrote pro-government sources on Feb. 17.

Loyalists captured Kinsabba on Feb. 18, wrote Al-Masdar News. Control of Kinsabba would allow access to Jisr al-Shugour, but government forces would need to take Kabani and then al-Sirmaniyah first, according to Al-Masdar News.

Opposition leaders canceled a meeting in ceasefire Geneva in response to the government advance in Latakia, reported The Wall Street Journal. Rebel sources warned that the government was poised to reclaim the whole governorate. Orient News reported rebel resistance throughout Jabal al-Akrad, Jabal al-Turkman and around Kinsabba.

First Coastal Division strikes government with TOW missiles around Kinsabba. 

Moving north from Kinssibba, government troops took Ayn Ghazal, wrote Al-Masdar News. Loyalists also took Jabal Kafr Sanid and Karoum, according to Al-Masdar News. The Syrian Army continued to send reinforcements to the Kabani front to support the offensive, El-Akbar reported.

Oppositions groups Ahrar al-Sham and Bayan took responsibility for a bombing against Russian military personnel, wrote International Business Times on Feb. 24. The bombing occurred on Feb. 21, but opposition leadership waited until their operatives returned safely to their base before taking credit, wrote Albawaba. The attack took place in Jableh and targeted a meeting between Russian and Syrian military officials, wrote ARA News.

Russian officials announced a coordination center at Hmeymim Airbase to facilitate talks with the opposition, wrote IRIB. ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra were reportedly not invited to participate in the reconciliation effort. Meanwhile, rebel fighters in Latakia received a fresh shipment of Grad missiles, wrote Al-Alam.

Pro-government forces fought to take more ground on Latakia before a ceasefire took effect on Feb. 28, reported Reuters on Feb. 25. The opposition agreed to a two week ceasefire amid reservations, the report said. Government leaders were concerned that the opposition would use the intermission to rearm and resupply, according to Reuters.

Opposition forces began to retreat through the Turkish border, wrote Al-Alam. The opposition forces took al-Dorra and Saraf with Turkish artillery support, the report said. Government forces continued to progress through the mountains and targeted Ma’ar Baya with artillery and airstrikes, according to Al-Alam. Orient News reported modest gains from opposition counter attacks.

Immense mistrust hung over the coming ceasefire on both sides. Sputnik questioned the seriousness of the Obama administration, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and opposition forces preceding the scheduled ceasefire. Opposition leaders suspected the government would brand all rebel fighters as al-Qaeda militants, who were not covered by the truce, reported Reuters. In theory, this would allow them to continue their advance without “breaking” the ceasefire. Pro-government sources reported loyalist gains near the Turkish border on Friday, Feb. 26.

On Saturday Feb. 27, the ceasefire began. VOA reported that the ceasefire mostly held, despite clashes along the Turkish border and continued Russian bombing of groups labeled as “extremists.” SOHR reported bombing and shelling in northern parts of Latakia.

With the ceasefire in effect, progovernment sources reported opposition shelling of Latakia. Opposition sources denied these claims, reported Asharq al-Awsat. Russian officials reported nine truce violations, but said the truce was still holding.

French officials expressed concerns that Russian and Syrian forces continued to target moderate opposition groups, reported Reuters. On March 1, TASS reported shelling near Kensaba by Jabhat al-Nusra, which is not part of the ceasefire.

Government forces continued their offensive along the Turkish border in spite of the ceasefire, opposition leaders told Reuters. Loyalist forces launched an attack on Kabani and captured strategic heights in the area, wrote Al-Alam. Al-Masdar News reported a “final battle” for Kabani on March 3.

Pro-opposition Syria:direct reported that despite fewer airstrikes, continued bombard,emt and clashes endangered civilians despite the ceasefire.  The presence of Jabhat al-Nusra fighters in northern Latakia provided a pretext for loyalists to continue their offensive, reported EA Worldview. El-Akbar reported government victories against Jabhat al-Nusra in the region.

Both government and opposition forces continued to report fighting throughout the region. Xinhua acknowledged the ongoing fighting in Latakia, but highlighted truce success in other parts of Syria.

SAA on the attack in the Latakia Countryside, by Eyad Al-Hosain. 

Opposition forces stuck government troops around Kinsibba, wrote ARA News on March 7. Vladimir Isachenkov reported being shelled while visiting Kinsibba for the AP. Loyalists pushed north from Kinsibba, taking Rashou and al-Armeed, according to FARS News.

Pro government troops captured Jabal Al-Zawiqat and resumed their assault on Kabani, wrote Al-Masdar News. A report by Al-Alam agreed with these gains.

Footage by Eyad Al-Hosain shows the SAA around Kabani.

Orient News reported truce violations by government troops in Latakia and Idlib. Government planes bombed areas around Jabal al-Akrad, wrote SOHR. On March 11, Russian officials noted one truce violation in the previous 24 hours, wrote FARS News. They also claimed to have refrained from bombing with rebel groups who informed them of their locations. The same day, TASS reported two violations in Latakia.

Loyalists continued to fight for Kabani and secured a hill along the Latakia-Idlib border, wrote Al-Masdar News. Pro-government troops encircled Kabani on three sides, leaving one route open for retreat, according to Al-Masdar News. Anonymous sources told Al-Alam that capturing the heights around Kabani set the stage for their assault on the city. Russian officials continued to report ceasefire violations.

On March 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the overall success of Russia’s mission in Syria, wrote Stratfor. He added that the Russian air presence would begin to withdraw the next day. While the move was more a scale-back than a full withdraw, observers questioned how this would effect the resurgent government forces. On March 15, the second day of peace talks, Russian planes began to leave Syria, wrote AFP. Russian sources did not specify how many of their air assets would leave the country, reported the New York Times.

Despite the Russian drawback, opposition supporters expressed concerns that government forces would retain the upper hand, reported The Wall Street Journal. Some Russian air power seemed to remain. Al-Masdar News reported Russian airstrikes near the Turkish border on March 15.

With most of Latakia under loyalist control, the government appeared to shift focus to Palmyra in the south east. A large convoy of government troops left Latakia for Palmyra, wrote Al-Masdar News on March 17. Clashes broke out in Palmyra as government troops shelled targets in Latakia, wrote SOHR.

Some Latakia residents expressed worries that the Russia withdraw would badly affect both security and the local economy, reported AFP.

An assessment by the US military found that while not all Russia planes had withdrawn, no airstrikes were taking place, wrote AFP. An analysis by Stratfor found that a small amount of Russian assets had left, but they were still expanding their facilities. Stratfor also noted an additional deployment of Mi-28 and Ka-52 helicopter gunships.

On March 20, government troops took al-Souda, their first advance in Latakia in two weeks, wrote Al-Masdar News. Loyalists beat back an attack on Jabal al-Qalla and Ain al-Baida, wrote Al-Alam. On March 20, the Russian Center for reconciliation recorded two ceasefire violations in Latakia. They also reported a teleconference with the U.S. reconciliation office in Amman, where both parties shared concerns over the frequent ceasefire violations.

After the recapture of Palmrya from ISIS, Syria’s marines moved to the Jabal al-Akrad area of Latakia to resume operations, wrote Al-Alam. The report said they would be involved in operations to take Jisr al-Shugour, a prize opposition forces seized in the spring of 2015.

Mihraç Ural, a pro-government fighter wanted for terrorism by Turkey, was killed at Jabal Nabi Younis, wrote Daily Sabah. Ahrar al-Sham reportedly fired mortars at Jabal Nabi Younis after detecting movement, and later learned that Ural was among the casualties. Ural had been accused of participating in massacres in al-Baida and Banias during May 2013, wrote The New Arab.

On April 4, Orient News reported opposition progress around Kensibba along the slopes of Jabal al-Akrad at NahshabbaRasha and Haddada. SOHR reported clashes around Jabal al-Akrad the same day. Government forces withdrew from Nakshaba and Rasha, then airpower bombarded these areas, wrote Al-Masdar News. The loyalists retook the areas, then retreated, leaving the area controlled by no one, the report said. Rebels killed a government colonel and his unit at Rasha, opposition sources told ARA News. Al-Alam reported the killing of a Jabhat al-Nusra commander around Jabal al-Akrad.

An opposition attack took half of Jabal al-Qamou’ and al-Bayyada, wrote al-Masdar News. Controlling the heights would provide a strategic advantage to either side, the report said.

Both sides continued to report ceasefire violations and reprisals in Latakia.

Government forces attacked a stretch of road between Al-Hanboushiyah and Nariyah, wrote Al-Masdar News. The move aimed to cut opposition supply lines to Jabal al-Turkman, the report said. Jabhat al-Nusra contested government gains in the area around Ayn Al-Bayda.

Over half of Russia’s air deployment had left Syria, AFP reported. However, the article noted the increased role of attack helicopters in providing air support to government forces. An opposition offensive jumped off in nearby parts of Hama, wrote EA Worldview. The same day, Al-Masdar News reported a full reversal of recent opposition gains in Latakia. ARA News maintained that opposition forces held onto gains around al-Bayyada.

On April 14, TASS reported that the rebel offensive had been repelled. Pro-government sources wrote that Turkish militants crossed the border into Latakia. Ahrar al-Sham shelled government positions in Sandran, Ain al-Ashara and Kilaz, according to TASS.

Ahrar al-Sham prepares for clashes in Latakia’s hills. 

Citing the frequent ceasefire violations and ongoing fighting, opposition negotiators declared a pause in the Geneva talks, wrote Reuters on April 18. The same day, the opposition attacked in Latakia and Hama, reported Reuters.

SAA fights with opposition in Latakia, reportedly of the Turkistan Islamic Party, by Eyad Al-Hosain. 

In the Kabani area, rebel groups including the First Sahiliya Division, Ahrar al-Sham, Ansar al-Sham, the Second Sahiliya Division, the Turkistan Islamic Party and Jabhat Al-Nusra worked to force the government back, wrote SOHR. Syria Direct reported that 10 brigades participated in these new attacks. Government forces captured a strategic height along Kabani’s southwest, according to Al-Masdar News.

Pro-government forces prepared their own attacks in Latakia, Al-Alam wrote. Russia ended the two-month pause in their air campaign, wrote Al-Masdar News. Talks would continue the following week with opposition representatives absent, reported Reuters. Daily Sabah reported loyalist attacks against Turkman areas along Syria’s northern border. Fighting continued around Kabani. RT published footage of the fighting in northeastern Latakia on April 27.

Citing the deadlocked talks and military buildup, AP noted the fledgling ceasefire was effectively over. The US and Russia called for an emergency 72 hour ceasefire, reports said. Al-Masdar News reported that both loyalists and rebels launched attacks around Kabani. Jabhat al-Nusra attempted to inflame fighting shortly before the ceasefire began, wrote TASS. SOHR reported calm in the immediate onset of the truce. Airstrikes took place in Aleppo, Al-Jazeera wrote. Aleppo would not be included in the truce efforts, wrote Rudaw.

The Russian Centre for reconciliation of opposing sides in the Syrian Arab Republic reported Ahrar al-Sham had committed ceasefire violations in Latakia. Anadolu Agency reported that both government and opposition forces respected the truce in Latakia’s mountains.

On the Ground News interviews a Jabhat al-Nusra spokesperson on the situation in Latakia. 

On May 6, Russia extended the truce for another 72 hours, wrote Reuters. On May 13, SOHR reported shelling around the Turkish border by government forces. Pro-government sources reported the killing of a Moroccan leader in Harakat Sham al-Islam.

Opposition and government forces fought over Tal Haddadeh. Government control of Tal Haddadeh would grant them high ground overlooking opposition supply lines between Jisr al-Shugour and Jabal al-Akrad, wrote Xinhua. On May 19, Orient News wrote that the rebels foiled the loyalist push. Fighting in the area continued through the following days.

Ahrar al-Sham report from Tal Haddadeh. 

Government forces repelled an opposition attack on Ayn Issa, wrote Al-Masdar News. On May 23, bombs went off in Tartus, killing over 100 people, wrote RT. Initial claims that Ahrar al-Sham carried out the attacks were denied by the group, wrote EA Worldview. Reuters put the dead at nearly 150, with around 200 wounded. The report said the Islamic State group took responsibility for the attack. Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed solidarity with the government in the wake of the attacks, wrote Reuters.

Opposition forces attacked Saraf, according to Al-Masdar News. If the opposition retook the town, it would open up a gateway for them to attack into Jabal al-Turkman, the report said. Russian airpower struck targets along the Syria-Turkey border, wrote Al-Masdar News. Fighting continued in the vicinity of of Kinsabba, wrote Al-Masdar News.

On June 2, a bomb exploded outside a mosque in Latakia city. Sources reported two deaths, citing Syrian state TV.

Jabhat al-Nusra took two settlements from pro-government forces, wrote Sputnik. Ahrar al-Sham posted photos of a downed Orlan-10 Russian reconnaissance drone, reported Al-Masdar News.

Fighting broke out at Ayn Issa, with Al-Masdar News reporting that government forces started the attack and were initially successful. Zaman Al-Wasl reported that the government had taken the town. El-Dorar al-Shamia wrote that rebels retook the town.

First Coastal Division attacks Ayn Issa, posted on June 5, 2016. 

On June 6, Orient News ran an image of Vladimir Putin with an Adolf Hitler-mustache. The accompanying text condemned Russian military personnel for assistance of the Assad government.

Pro-government forces shelled the opposition around Ain Issa, wrote Al-Masdar News. Loyalists also attacked the rebels at Kabani, reported Al-Masdar News. The opposition later pushed pro-government forces away from their positions south of Kabani, the outlet later wrote.

Russia delivered five tons of aid to the christian community in Latakia, wrote TASS. Loyalists with air support attacked Kabani on June 13, according to Zaman Al-Wasl

Fighting continued around Jabal al-Turkman and throughout northern Latakia, wrote SOHR. Russia Today reported sightings of 100 Jabhat al-Nusra fighters passing from Turkey, past Kabani and toward Aleppo.

The rebels forced loyalist troops to withdraw from some of their newly gained possessions, including Ayn Issa, reported Al-Masdar News on June 17. Pro-rebel SOHR also reported these opposition successes.

Daily Sabah and Orient News cited Abu Khalid Ghandour, a leader in the Coastal Brigade, about the opposition recapture of Ayn Issa, Burj al-Hayat and al-Shahrurah.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov questioned the United States’ commitment to fighting Jabhat Al-Nusra. In a conversation with John Kerry, he reportedly questioned whether the U.S. saw Jabhat al-Nusra as a useful means to their end of toppling Bashar Al-Assad.

NDF report from around Kabani, June 18.

In the north of the Jabal al-Turkman, the opposition retook al-Hayat Tower and al-Shahrurah, wrote Orient News on June 19.

On June 27, Al-Masdar News reported the failure of an opposition offensive. Russian air power struck forces of the Turkistan Islamic Party and Jabhat al-Nusra on their way to attack government positions, according to the report. SANA also wrote that the rebel effort failed.

Various factions within Jaish al-Fatah took park in the regional offensive, wrote The Long War Journal. Some groups posted videos appearing to show their use of U.S. provided weapons. Rebel sources reported killing 10 loyalist fighters in missile attacks and of opposition progress. Forty-five pro-government personnel died by June 28, according to the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.

First Coastal Division deploys TOW missile.

Jaysh al-Izza fires TOW at pro-government vehicle. 

Opposition forces took Kinsibba from the loyalists on July 1, reported Reuters. Kinsibba had been under government control since February. The rebels took 13 villages as part of the June 27  offensive, wrote Xinhua. Loyalist troops prepared for a sizable counter offensive, wrote Al-Masdar News.

NDF report on Latakia fighting, June 30.

First Coastal Division tour of opposition-held Kinsibba, June 30.

On July 3, SOHR reported airstrikes around Jabal al-Akrad and Jabal al-Turkaman, with ground fighting around Saraf. Loyalist reinforcements arrived in Latakia from East Ghouta, according to Al-Masdar News. Government forces surrounded Kinsibba and awaited orders from Syrian high command to attack the town, wrote Al-Masdar News on July 5.

The government counteroffensive kicked off and loyalists attacked Kinsibba, wrote Al-Masdar News on July 8. The loyalist publication reported government gains over the next couple days. Opposition media also reported these clashes. The opposition beat back a loyalist push outside of Kinsibba, wrote Zaman Al-Wasl.

Loyalist troops retook Kinsibba on Saturday, July 16. The government offensive continued following the operation, wrote Al-Masdar News.

Jaish al-Izza walks through Ayn Ghazal post-capture.

Jaysh al-Fatah took Kinsibba, reported Zaman Al-Wasl on July 17. The area remained contested into the next day with government advances in the mountains, wrote Al-Masdar News. Fighting continued in the area, but government forces remained in control, wrote SOHR.

On Tuesday July 19, opposition sources reported victory in Kinsibba, again. Loyalists continued to fight around Jabal al-Turkman, wrote Al-Masdar News. The next day, opposition forces took Shalaf, according to Al-Masdar News.

Warplanes struck Kabani, SOHR reported days later. Orient News reported opposition advances around Jabal al-Akrad.

Following an artillery barrage, government forces attacked and took Shalaf, wrote Al-Masdar News on July 29. Taking control of the town was a step toward reclaiming Kinsibba from the opposition, the report said. Loyalists began preparing an offensive toward that end, wrote Al-Masdar News.

SOHR reported loyalist attacks on Kinsibba. A Russian cruise missile struck the town of Bidama in Jabal al-Akrad, wrote Zaman Al-Wasl.

On Aug. 1, opposition media posted images of a downed helicopter in neighboring Idlib Governorate. State media reported the helicopter to be a Russian Mi-8 transport, according to Xinhua.

Opposition fighters used a missile to strike a loyalist target near Kabani, wrote SOHR. A container of chlorine acid caught fire in Latakia city, according to Zaman al-Wasl. The pro-opposition outlet speculated that the substance was probably for use in chemical weapons.

Loyalist forces took back Shalaf and prepared for an attack on Kinsibba, wrote pro-government media. Pro-government troops ambushed rebel fighters and gained advantage to the northeast of Kinsibba, wrote Al-Masdar News. Clashes continued around Jabal al-Akrad, wrote SOHR.

Interviews with fighters of the First Coastal Division.

Opposition sources reported recapturing Shalaf, wrote Daily Sabah on Aug. 8. SOHR reported airstrikes around Kinsibba the same day.

Loyalist forces took Kinsibba and kept advancing, according to pro-government sources.

Pro-government fighters beat back an opposition counterattack at Kinsibba and Jabal al-Qal’at, wrote Al-Masdar News on Aug. 10.

Government forces killed three commanders of the First Coastal Division in the fighting around Kinsibba and Shalaf, wrote Zaman Al-Wasl. Loyalist sources reported the failure of a rebel counter offensive to retake Kinsibba. The victorious loyalists moved against Kabani to follow up on their win, wrote Al-Masdar News.

Opposition forces defeated that Kabani offensive, Al-Masdar News reported on Aug. 14. Fighting continued in the northern mountains, wrote SOHR. Government air power struck a concentration of rebels near Kabani, wrote Al-Masdar News.

For background about Jaysh al- Fatah, check out the December writeup. (Links from December 14 – 20)

Start at the beginning with the fall of Idlib post. (Links from 2011 – Summer 2015)

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