The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) assisted by Russian forces and Hezbollah fighters is on a roll in northern Latakia, pushing extremists out of strategic areas close to the Syrian border with Turkey, where the Russian Su-24 bomber was shot down earlier this week.
Following days of intense fighting, the SAA has reportedly taken al-Markashileh and Jab al-Ahmar regions under control. On Friday, Damascus-led forces managed to push militant fighters from Tal Sifah and Tal al-Malouha in northern Latakia.
Earlier this week, the Syrian Army reportedly killed three senior commanders of the Free Syrian Army in the province of Latakia. One of them, Rasheed Bikdash, who the media outlet described as one of the “Mujahidin Army” leaders, is said to be “the highest-ranking defector” from the SAA.
Various radical groups, including ISIL and al-Nusra Front, have been trying to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad for nearly five years. On September 30, Russia launched an aerial campaign sending Su-24M, Su-25 and Su-34 warplanes to conduct precision strikes on ISIL and other terrorist targets in Syria at the request of Damascus.On November 24, a Turkish F-16 shot down the Su-24, claiming that the aircraft had violated its airspace. Russian officials and the Su-24 pilot, who survived the crash, insist that the plane did not cross into Turkey. The crew, according to the pilot, did not receive any warning prior to the attack.