On November 30, three militants were killed when regime forces shelled a position they were manning in the al-Ghab Plains in the western part of the Greater Idlib region.
Opposition sources revealed that the slain militants were Syrian members of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP). The militants were fighting in the terrorist group’s Ansar [Supporters] unit which is dedicated for Syrians only.
According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the army targeted the militants’ position with a Russian-made 2K25 Krasnopol laser-guided 155 mm artillery round.
The TIP, which is made up mainly of Chinese Uyghurs, maintains a large presence in the western part of Greater Idlib. The al-Ghab Plains in the northwestern Hama countryside, the town of Jisr al-Shughur in the western Idlib countryside, and the Kabani town in the northern countryside of Lattakia are known strongholds of the group.
The regime forces shelling was most likely a response to recent violations of the ceasefire in Greater Idlib. In the last few days, two soldiers were allegedly killed in the al-Ghab Plains by sniper fire.
Several recent reports talked about a near ground operation by the regime forces and its allies to reinforce the ceasefire in Greater Idlib. Nevertheless, the army appears to be content with limited military measures, at least as for the time being.
Any ground operation in Greater Idlib will likely lead to a confrontation with the Turkish military who reinforced its troops in the region in the last few months.