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Amid ongoing offensives on multiple fronts by the pro-government forces against the ISIS terrorist group across Syria, the Palmyra combat zone remains highly active. In this area of operations the Syrian Arab Army and its allies have been slowly creeping forward amid a fanatic ISIS defence.

Between the 25th to the 27th of January, the pro-government forces continued to expand the buffer zone around the T-4 Military Airbase to both the north and the south. In the south, the water-extracting village of B’ir al-Fawa’irah was liberated on the 25th, whilst in the north, the pro-government forces expelled ISIS terrorists from two hill tops belonging to the Jabal Tiyas mountain chian on the 26th. All advances made during this time period were done under the cover of key fire support assets belonging to the Russian Aerospace Forces and the Syrian Arab Army. Whilst the Russian Aerospace Forces provided close air support in the form of attack helicopters, the Syrian Arab Army used heavy artillery, including rocket forces, to shatter the front ahead of their ground advances.

The ongoing consolidated offensives against ISIS by the pro-government forces, not only at the Palmyra front, but also in eastern parts of Aleppo province have been made possible by a reduction in the military activities of the so-called opposition forces against the Syrian Arab Army. There are two reasons for this.

First, the Astana Peace Talks to which many of the so-called opposition factions are attending is forcing them to keep their anti-government military activities to a minimum as they hope to gain some kind of political revenue via the use of diplomatic means. It is also worth mentioning that many of the non-ISIS militant groups – Salafists and Islamists alike – have now lost almost all of the military leverage they once held for the best part of 2016. Their defeats in various battles around Aleppo and their eventual expulsion from the city itself in December of 2016 represents the largest contributing factor to this reality.

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Secondly, the so-called “Rebel Civil War” in Idlib province which currently rages with great intensity is also serving to tie down the military resources of major militant groups such as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, Noor al-Din al-Zenki and Ahrar al-Sham which may otherwise be used in operations against the pro-government forces. This factor alone is likely enough to effectively neutralise the so-called “moderate” opposition threat to Damascus so long as it remains a reality.