The day began in an unusual fashion: no activity until 01.00hrs, but then a lot of it — and starting with a MiG-23 that flew an air strike on Kfar Nabl, at 01.01 (don’t recall such a sortie by SyAAF since at least 2014). By 01.43, the Russians then launched a series of 12 air strikes on the Jishr ash-Shughour, Khan Sheykhoun and Ma’arat an-Nauman areas in quick succession.
The next VKS wave commenced launching at 04.05hrs: it consisted of 15 aircraft that primarily hit the area between Darat Azza (where civilian casualties were reported), and Wadi al-Mazra’ah, in Western Aleppo. Obviously, this was a preparatory attack for the IRGC-run offensive mentioned yesterday: this is consisting of the northern prong, on axis Rashideen-Shuwehnah (where al-Ghalibun, i.e. Hezbollah/Syria is attacking), and the south-eastern axis, from western Aleppo in direction of Anadana (where Liwa al-Qods is assaulting). Simultaneously, two L-39s were attacking targets in the Kfar Zita area.
Around 08.00hrs, two helicopters from Hama AB bombed the Halfaya area, ‘softening’ FSyA-positions in preparation for multiple attacks launched in direction of that place. The same area was then hit by two pairs of Su-25s, which signalled the start of the next Russian- but also a SyAAF wave: the Russians continued bombing western Aleppo (especially Atarib), while Assadists bombed primarily the Kfar Zita salient — using additional helicopters, but also MiG-21s and MiG-23s from Hama, and Su-24s from Tiyas. Nevertheless, some of Russian air strikes hit Latamina with ODAB-500 FAE-bombs again. The same area — but especially Halfaya — was hit by an additional Su-24s from Tiyas, but also three Su-22s from Kweres between 09.00 and 09.15hrs. This wave ended at something like 09.45, by when the Russians launched 15, and the Assadists another 18 sorties.
Notable is that the IRGC’s offensive on western Aleppo was supported by the Russians this time — contrary to earlier practice when all IRGC’s operations in Aleppo area were supported by SyAAF aircraft and helicopters only (at most, the Russians used to fly interdiction strikes, i.e. support the IRGC indirectly). This remained that way after 10.00hrs too, when the Russians commenced launching their next wave. As so often, this was initiated by two pairs of Su-25s: one of these attacked targets in the Taftanaz area, the other Hreitan in western Aleppo. The SyAAF added a Su-24 from Tiyas, a Su-22 from Kweres and another from Nayrab AB/Aleppo IAP (this is ‘news’!), both of which attacked the Kfar Zita area. The activity continued in same style between 11.00 and 12.00hrs too: additional Su-22s from Kweres and Nayrab bombed Latamina (which was hit repeatedly the entire morning), and Halfaya, VKS fighter-bombers concentrated on the areas further north. Another new detail was the take-off of a single SyAAF Su-24 from as-Sien AB (better known in the West as ‘Tsaykal’), around 11.59.
In a separate operation, a single SyAAF Mi-25 bombed Dera’a (flying over southern Syria seems to have been hampered by bad visibility, yesterday):
…while at least two SyAAF fighter-bombers hit Qaboun, in eastern Damascus.
Between 12.00 and 13.00hrs, the Russians quickly launched their next wave. Consisting of 22 aircraft, this targeted the roads between Jishr as-Shughour, Ma’arat an-Nauman and further east.
The SyAAF commenced launching its second wave of the day in form of two Su-22s from Kweres, and one Su-22 from Shayrat around 13.30hrs. These joined the VKS Il-20M on its second sortie that day, plus several fighter-bombers that were attacking Kfar Nabl and M’arat an-Nauman, but also Hreitan in western Aleppo.
There followed a relatively quiet period until 16.45, when the VKS commenced launching its next wave. This included ‘only’ eight aircraft, one of which — a solo Russian
Su-34 — deployed two ‘bunker busters’ (probably BETAB-500s) to hit the underground hospital in Khirbat Abidin (constructed about 10 metres deep), in southern Idlib, around 17.00hrs local time. Assadists then targeted the same place with this SS-21:
Another Russian wave commenced launching around 17.50hrs, and primarily targeted Kfar Nabl and Latamina. The same was the case with two helicopters and three L-39s launched from Hama around 19.00hrs.
The evening Russian wave commenced launching around 19.50hrs. It began with the Il-20M and several UAVs, plus at least two helicopters, but totalled only some 7–8 air strikes flown by 23.00hrs. Instead, the Russians left it upon L-39s and helicopters from Hama to continue bombing.
It seems that the flying activity was limited by that time, because of fluid situation on the ground. Namely, it transpired that during the last evening the FSyA and the AAS have suddenly withdrawn from Halfay (for fourth time in total since they captured the place for the first time, in 2013).