Russia has intensified its military involvement in the Syrian conflict.
On May 30, Syrian state media announced that it had received a batch of MiG-29 multirole fighters from Russia. Damascus did not provide details regarding the number of the received jets, but said that they are entering service with the Syrian Air Force on June 1. They are set to conduct regular patrols in Syrian airspace. Prior to the delivery, the Syrian Air Force had at least 20 MiG-29 jets.
Moscow is also working to expand its military infrastructure. On May 29, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a directive tasking the Defense Ministry, in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry, with holding negotiations with Syria on transferring more real estate and water territory to the Russian military’s possession. Russia currently has two permanent military bases in the war-torn country — the Hmeimim air base in Latakia province and a naval facility at the port of Tartus on the Mediterranean Sea.
The intensification of Russian support to the Damascus government comes as Turkey continues its military buildup in northwestern Syria. On May 30, May 31 and June 1, the Turkish Army deployed additional troops and equipment, including at least four M110 self-propelled howitzers, in Greater Idlib.
The configuration of Turkish military positions and Ankara’s attitude towards Damascus demonstrate that Turkey is not going to use these force against Idlib terrorists.
Rather, these reinforcements are needed to secure their safety in the event of any advance by the Syrian Army. On May 30, pro-government sources even claimed that Turkish artillery carried out several strikes on positions of the Syrian Army near Urem al-Kubra.
In response to the Turkish posture, the Syrians created additional fortifications at their positions in Saraqib and Ma`arat al-Nu`man as well as the Zawiya Mountain. Pro-militant sources also claim that the army from time to time conducts limited precision strikes on militant positions along the contact line in southern Idlib.
On top of this, late on May 31, an unidentified unmanned combat aerial vehicle delivered a series of airstrikes on militants’ positions on the al-Zawiya Mountian. At least 3 militants were reportedly killed. The material damage remains unclear.
On May 30, ISIS cells targeted a Syrian Army vehicle with an IED and then shelled it near al-Sukhna. 3 soldiers were allegedly killed. The anti-ISIS raid that came in response to the attack led to no results. On the next day, reports appeared that an officer and a soldier were killed in two separate ISIS attacks in the provinces of Homs and Deir Ezzor. Over the past weeks, government forces have contributed notable efforts to hunt down ISIS cells hiding in the Homs-Deir Ezzor desert. Despite this, the terrorist threat still remains high in the area.