Syria rebels discuss
“post-liberation” Hama

Opposition factions have advanced against regime forces northeast of the city in recent days.


BEIRUT – Syrian rebels advancing against pro-regime forces outside Hama have already held discussions on contingency plans for governing the city in the event of its capture.


A military commander in the Free Syrian Army-affiliated Jaysh al-Nasr told a pro-opposition outlet that “we had several meetings to discuss the status of Hama, in case of its liberation,God willing.”


“Most of the factions unanimously agreed on the need the need to preserve the state’s service institutions,” Abu Ahmed said in an interview with All4Syria during which he vowed rebels would avoid to repeat the “mistakes of Idlib.”


“Plans have been prepared for [governing Hama],” he added.


His comments come as opposition forces continue to press along the outskirts of Hama as regime defensive lines outside the city continue to crumble in the face of the fierce insurgent attacks.


On Thursday, opposition forces seized the village of Karah, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the latest victory in an ongoing series of battles that have rolled back regime lines northeast of the city.


Enab Baladi quoted a source as saying that the “operation will continue eastward until reaching Qasr Abou Samra,” a town on the southern edge of a salient of regime territory coming under attack from the insurgents.


The unnamed military source explained that the rebels aim to expand their lines to a 35-kilometer wide front stretching from Halfaya, located northwest of Hama, to Qasr Abou Samra in the east.



Rebel forces on the move outside the village of Al-Qahira northeast of Hama earlier in the week. (Twitter/Ahrar al-Sham)


Following the launch of a blistering offensive on August 29—spearheaded by the jihadist Jund al-Aqsa faction recently blacklisted by the US—rebel forces advanced within 15 kilometers of the city, which was the site of mass anti-regime protests in the early months of the Syrian uprising.


The opposition factions paused their offensive in mid-September amid the US-Russian brokered cessation of hostilities, however following its collapse a new stage of the campaign commenced in the northeastern countryside of Hama, which was joined on September 27 by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, the Al-Nusra Front’s rebranded name after it publicly dropped ties with Al-Qaeda.


Pro-regime media in the past two weeks has touted planned counteroffensives, but none of them made any headway against the steadily advancing opposition groups.


Although rebel advances have raised optimism in pro-opposition circles that Hama will be within reach of insurgents, the military source who spoke with Enab Baladi stressed that rebels still need to solidify their lines north of the city.


“The entry into Hama will not be achieved without first liberating the mountains overlooking Hama and ensuring the extension of the opposition’s [lines] at the city’s northern entrance,” he said, cautioning that fighting could last for weeks.


NOW's English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Amin Nasr translated Arabic-language material. 

Syria's Hama. (Wikipedia/Effi Schweizer)

Plans have been prepared for [governing Hama].