The Russian General Staff said in a statement on Wednesday that the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham – previously known as al-Nusra Front – Takfiri militant group and its allies launched an offensive on the positions of government forces stationed to the north and northeast of Hama city on Tuesday morning.
General Sergei Rudskoy, the spokesman for the Russian General Staff, said some 850 militants were killed as the Russian command in Syria ordered an operation, including air raids and a ground offensive conducted by the military and special operations forces, to thwart the terrorist attack.
The statement added that the militants suffered heavy losses as 11 tanks, three infantry fighting vehicles, 46 armed pickup trucks, five mortars, 20 freighter trucks and 38 ammo supply points were destroyed in the operation.
He noted that three Russian troops from the special operations forces were also wounded in the operation.
The Russian military said that the militants' offensive was meant to derail the successful operation of the government forces east of Dayr al-Zawr.
Russia, Iran and Turkey, which together act as guarantor states in peace talks for Syria, agreed on the details of a “de-escalation zone” in Idlib province during resolution talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana earlier this month.
In a joint statement on September 15, the three countries said they had agreed "to allocate" their forces to patrol the zone covering Idlib province and parts of the neighboring Latakia, Hama and Aleppo regions.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said Friday observers from the three countries would be deployed around the de-escalation zone to prevent "clashes between the government and the opposition forces and any violations of the truce."
The northwestern province of Idlib borders Turkey and is largely under the control of al-Nusra Front Takfiri militants.
The original agreement on the creation of the four zones, which came about in May, has been one of the substantive results of the talks, many rounds of which have taken place since January.
So far, agreements had been reached on the demarcation of three of the zones in Idlib’s neighboring provinces of Latakia, Aleppo, and Hama.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since 2011.
In Idlib, militants from the al-Nusra Front group are fighting the Syrian government.
The militants suffered their biggest blow since the onset of the militancy last year, when Syria recaptured Aleppo’s provincial capital.
The mediating states then joined efforts late last year to bring about a ceasefire over the city, which was then extended to the entire Syria.