Results of jihadi advance:
On May 6t, 2019, the Syrian Arab Army launched an offensive in the northern province of Hama. The SAA has already managed to achieve first success. At first glance, the battles in the north of Hama look somewhat faded in comparison with the operation to liberate East Ghouta, deblocking of Deir ez-Zor or the battle for Aleppo. However, the May operation in the north of Hama became a kind of litmus test, which showed a qualitative increase in SAA compared with the initial stage of the war.
Objectively, the beginning of the war found the Syrian army in bad shape. The troops had significant problems with control and interaction between the units. The army often could not effectively counteract. Units are often thrown into hasty and poorly prepared attacks, which led to large losses in personnel and equipment. The interaction between the military branches was poor. Video recordings with the destruction of Syrian armor by the ATGMs became one of the symbols of this war. In many ways, the unsuccessful SAA operations at this stage of the hostilities resembled the actions of the Russian army at the beginning of the First Chechen War.
However, after the start of the Russian operation in Syria, the situation began to change. Russian military advisers slowly but surely increased the level of combat effectiveness of the SAA. Gradually, control and interaction between the branches of the military were established. Syrian officers were trained in new tactical techniques based on the experience of the Russian army. As a result, starting in the fall of 2015, each new SAA combat operation turned out to be more successful than the previous one.
In 2015, the Syrian army launched an operation in the northeast province of Hama, but, having lost a large number of armored vehicles, was forced to curtail the offensive. The shelling and attacks on SAA positions carried out by militants based in Idlib could not go unpunished. In addition, the strikes of artillery and the drones of terrorists on the Russian Khmeimim airbase threatened the lives of Russian servicemen. At the end of April 2019, the Syrian army began preparations for an offensive in the northern province of Hama. Its goal was to clean up the terrorists from the Al-Gab valley, from where they carried out attacks on the Khmeimim airbase.
On May 6th, the SAA launched an offensive operation. The beginning of the attack was preceded by prolonged artillery and air strikes. The militants, pulling together the best forces of both - terrorist organization "Hayat Tahrir al-Sham" and the jihadi groups of the so-called "moderate opposition", promised to arrange a repetition of the events unfolding in these areas in 2015. However, now they were confronted by an army of a completely different level. The SAA, reorganized under the leadership of Russian military advisers and tempered by the battles for Aleppo, the de-blockade of Deir ez-Zor, and the liberation of Eastern Ghouta, was at a qualitatively different level compared to 2015.
On May 6th, the Syrian army launched an offensive. On its edge is perhaps the best division of the SAA "The Tiger Forces." In the first hours of the operation, the height of Tel Otma dominating the terrain was captured, followed by the villages of Kabana, Shvash, and Bana. Militants tried to counteract the attack of the SAA, but they were unsuccessful. The Syrian army used tactics fundamentally different from 2015.
Attacks of the masses of armored vehicles without infantry were no more. The positions of the militants were thoroughly explored, including with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, after which they were "processed" by artillery and aircraft.
Then the assault groups, which captured the settlements and carried out clearing operations, went on the attack. And only after that armored vehicles entered the populated areas, before that they supported the actions of the assault groups with direct fire. Artillery, bombarding the area where the militants could have accumulated for a counterstrike, interfering with the actions of the enemy. The Syrian and Russian air forces working on militants' communications, did not allow them to tighten up reserves for a counterattack. After the units of the SAA captured the settlement, the Syrian military immediately began to set up defensive positions.
Artillery targeted potential militant counter-attack routes. If an unsuccessful SAA attack can be compared with the initial stage of the First Chechen War, now the Syrian army has acted in the spirit of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in the Second Chechen War.
Militants attempted a counterstrike, but Syrian artillery created a peculiar fire curtain, against which counter-attacks of terrorists were broken. In addition, in the period preceding the start of the operation, the Tiger Forces received a sufficient number of night-vision devices, which significantly affected the course of the hostilities. Counterstrike militants have not achieved success.
May 7th day passed in positional clashes. The militants, in their favorite manner, began to fire at the positions of the Syrian army from the ATGMs, in response, the SAA artillery worked on their clusters. Despite the lack of rapid progress, the course of events was clearly not in favor of the terrorists. Under the guidance of military advisers from Russia, the artillery and aviation of the SAA and the Russian Federation slowly but surely were destroying the defenses of the militants. “Hundreds of injured civilians from artillery and aviation strikes” exist only in reports of media resources loyal to the militants, in fact, numerous wounded terrorists accumulate in the militant rear, which clearly does not contribute to the sustainability of their defense. In addition, the constant fire pressure adversely affected the morale of the defenders.
On the morning of May 8th, the Tiger Forces launched an offensive and immediately took the town of Kafr Nabuda. The militants launched a number of counterattacks but did not achieve success. A suicide bomber driving Vehicle-Born IED, used by terrorists, was destroyed from an anti-tank system on the way to the target. Militants also used this type of weapon, destroying one SAA's T-72 tank. However, the battle for Kafr Nabudu was the first major success of the Syrian army during an offensive operation.
On May 9th, the SAA forces continued the offensive. On this day, they captured the city of Qal'at al-Mudik. As a result of negotiations with the elders, local residents forced the militants to leave the village and it was taken by the SAA without a fight. Artillery and aviation continued to work on the positions and communications of terrorists. Militants have increased the intensity of attacks from anti-tank systems, destroying the T-62 tank and KAMAZ truck of the SAA. However, these losses could not significantly affect the course of the operation. Moreover, the artillery of the Syrian army processed the positions from which it was launched. Militants ATGM crews found themselves under fire pressure, which significantly reduced the effectiveness of their actions.
In the morning, the SAA and militants carried out intensive artillery duels. The Russian military personnel was actively involved in the fighting. Thus, the pictures of Russian special forces showed up on the internet, using radar for counter battery and mortar, Russian specs detected and suppressed militant's firing positions
In the afternoon, "Hayat Tahrir al-Sham" militants, using Inghimasi (HTS special forces) storm groups launched another counterattack on Kafr Nabubu. However, although they were able to reach the town, the attack was repelled by the SAA. Artillery and aviation simply did not let the militants pull up large forces to the city. Having suffered casualties, the terrorists retreated. Along with the Air Force and artillery, in repelling the attack, the Tiger Forces unit played a significant role, which caused significant damage to the attacking militants with ATGM fire.
Unsuccessful counterattack significantly worsened the position of militants. Tangible losses in their best formations had a detrimental effect on the morale of the terrorists. On May 11th, the "Tiger Forces", marching in the vanguard of the offensive, quickly captured the village of Al-Sharia, entering the operational space in the valley of Al-Gab. The militant fighters, gradually losing the territory under their control, tried to spill their frustration on civilians, conducting intensive shelling from the Multiple Rocket Launcher Systems of the city of Sakhalyabiya, populated by Christians. Reinforcements from both Idlib and the Turkish-controlled canton of Afrin began to move toward the terrorists.
On May 13th, bringing up the reserves, the militants Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the so-called "moderate opposition" launched a massive counterattack near the village of Hamamiyat. Their goal was to strike the flank of the SAA. The attack was supported by a large armored group by the standards of the conflict, consisting of at least four tanks and three infantry fighting vehicles.
However, the intentions of the militants were promptly revealed. An intensive blow was struck by the artillery and aircraft on the approaching armor equipment. One of militants' T-72 was able to reach the Jabiya where it was destroyed on the streets of the village.
May 14th, impressive photos of the defeat of the attacking group of terrorists were published.
In total, according to the most modest estimates, 2 tanks, 2 infantry fighting vehicles, and at least 3 militant vehicles were destroyed. Dozens of terrorists died. Artillery and aviation literally dared the attackers. After repelling the counterattack, the militants, at least temporarily, stopped any attempts to seize the initiative from the SAA.
Al-Gab cleaning operation is ongoing. The SAA units inflict artillery and air strikes on the heights dominating the terrain, where the insurgents strengthened. The Russian Aerospace Forces work on logistics and terrorist communications in Idlib. Measures are being taken to master the heights dominating the terrain, including their roundabout maneuvers. The SAA reliably retains the initiative, and its superiority in artillery and armored vehicles, together with the ability to deliver air strikes, makes the question of cleaning the Al-Gab valley a matter of time.
During the operation in the north-east of Hama province, the Syrian army demonstrated huge qualitative growth in its potential.
Proper use of artillery and aircraft simply grinds the enemy defenses. Well-established interaction between the branches of the military allows them to occupy the dominant heights and settlements without incurring heavy losses. Modern means of reconnaissance make it possible to timely detect the movement of militants and hit their personnel and equipment while advancing to the lines of attack. Russian advisers and specialists managed to raise the Syrian army to a qualitatively new level. Separately, it is worthwhile to dwell on the actions of Russian special forces in the area. Special groups equipped with radar for counter-battery combat detect and destroy the artillery and mortar positions of the militants as well as direct the artillery and aviation fire.
Russian special forces fighters using sniper rifles and anti-tank systems destroy the most dangerous firing points of the terrorists. The contribution of Russian special forces operating in the Al-Gab valley is huge, although it often does not get into the media reports for reasons of secrecy. We hope that when the right time comes, the details of the work of Russian advisers and specialists will be known to the general public.
The operation in the north-east of Hama has become an example of progress in the level of combat capability of the Syrian army. The SAA, reorganized by the Russian advisers and quenched in the battles for Aleppo, Homs, Palmyra, Deir ez-Zor and East Ghouta, confidently moved from the defeats of the first stage of the war to a series of victories over the forces of the enemy.
Dmitry Valyuzhenich for Anna News