The civil war in Syria has taken a new turn. For the first time since the spring, the government’s forces have made an offensive move, instead of just defending its territory. The coordinated assault by Russia and Syria attacked from land, air and sea. Russia’s military power may be a game-changer in the conflict.
An area between northern Hama Province and southern Idlib Province was the focus of the attack, where insurgent’s hold the high ground. Twenty-six cruise missiles were fired at Syrian targets from naval vessels in the Caspian Sea. A number of videos have been posted showing rocket trails and explosions. In return, the insurgents fired advanced TOW antitank missiles at Syria’s Russian-made tanks.
Russia has focused on the Army of Conquest insurgent coalition, or Jaish al-Fatah, rather than on the Islamic State. The Army of Conquest’s positions threaten the coastal province of Latakia, President Bashar al-Assad’s family’s ancestral home. The coast is a critical area for Mr. Assad, and he will protect it at all costs. Mr. Assad has many supporters in the area among his fellow Alawites.
Russia’s commitment to the Syrian president led to the Russian intervention. Despite international pressure to step down, Mr. Assad remains in power. Syria, Iran, Russia and the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah have now formed an alliance and reportedly had been planning the offensive for months.
The Syrian civil war has lasted for more than four years, has killed a quarter of a million people and has displaced half of the country. Millions of Syrians have fled to neighboring countries and hundreds of thousands are making their way to the relative safety of Europe. Aid groups are becoming overwhelmed with the number of refugees fleeing the country and the numbers show no sign of subsiding anytime soon.