Bolstered by Russian airstrikes and sea-based cruise missiles, Syrian troops launched a large-scale military operation in central and northwestern parts of the country “to liberate the area” from terrorist groups, the (Syrian) nation’s top general said Thursday.
Gen. Ali Ayoub, the Syrian chief of staff, did not specify the target areas for the new offensive but said Syria had created new fighting units to wage the campaign, the state-owned Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported.
The heavy fighting appeared to be concentrated in the rural areas of Idlib, Hama and Latakia provinces, where the Army of Conquest, a coalition of rebel groups that includes the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, operates, the Associated Press reported. The Western-backed Free Syrian Army also has a presence in the area. The Islamic State has a limited presence in western Hama.
While much of the Syrian agency’s report centered on claims of attacks on Islamic State militants and al-Qaeda affiliated groups, the Syrian regime also refers to rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad as “terrorists.”