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NOW

New Hama rebel coalition
takes fight to regime

The coalition seeks to aid the Army of Conquest’s campaign in the Al-Ghab Plain

Rebels fire on the Hamameyat checkpoint. (YouTube/Smart News)

BEIRUT – Rebel groups operating in Hama have formed a new coalition aiming to cut off regime supply lines from the provincial capital to the Al-Ghab Plain, where Islamist insurgents have pressed a campaign along the regime’s coastal heartland.

 

On Monday, a collection of 15 Free Syrian Army-affiliated factions announced the creation of the Army of Victory in a bid to replicate the success of the Islamist Army of Conquest that seized control of the nearby Idlib Province in early June.

 

The new alliance’s goals as set out in its founding statement are “to respond to the vicious attacks and targeting of civilians by the traitorous regime army, and to answer the calls of the people of rural Hama and all of Syrian territory.”

 

In terms of military strategy, the coalition seeks to aid the Army of Conquest’s campaign in the Al-Ghab Plain that lies between the Hama and Latakia provinces south of rebel positions in the Idlib Province.

 

In late July, insurgents in Idlib launched sweeping attacks into the Al-Ghab Plain, threatening Alawite-populated towns as well as the regime’s reservoir of support along Syria’s coastal region.

 

A rebel commander in the newly formed Army of Victory explained that the coalition’s “first goal is to liberate northern rural Hama,” in reference to the Al-Ghab Plain, where the regime in past weeks has bolstered its defensive positions with Iranian assistance.

 

Sham Front commander Mohammad al-Ghabi also told Turkey’s Anadolu Agency that the Army of Victory aims to “break the regime’s first defensive line towards the city of Hama.”

 

Initial offensive

 

Syrian rebels discuss the offensive on the Hamameyat checkpoint. (YouTube)

 

The first offensive by the new coalition targeted the Hamameyat checkpoint, which lies in the mountains to the east of the Al-Ghab Plain.

 

According to a report in Arabic language daily Alaraby Aljadeed,the “importance of the Hamameyat checkpoint, one of the most famous checkpoints in northern rural Hama, comes from to its strategic position.”

 

“Situated on top of [the] Tel Hamameyat [elevation], it overlooks large areas of the liberated town of Kafr Zita,” the London-based newspaper said.

 

“Therefore, control of [the checkpoint] means moving closer to pro-regime areas in Al-Sheikh Hadid and Suqailabiya, as well as access to regime positions and reduction of pressure on the Al-Ghab Plain.”

 

Fighting around the Hamameyat checkpoint erupted late Sunday, with neither the regime nor the rebels making any substantial advances amid reciprocal claims that both had inflicted losses on their opponents.

 

In a post published midday Wednesday, pro-regime Facebook page National Defense Forces in Maharda said that the Hamameyat checkpoint was being targeted with mortar shells.

 

According to the page, which takes its name from a Christian town just south of the Hamameyat area, “the checkpoint is strong and there have been no reports of any injuries.”

 

However, at roughly the same time, the British based Syrian Observatory for Human rights said it had received “news of deaths and injuries in the ranks of regime forces and pro-regime militants” near the strategic hill.

 

“Fierce clashes are under way… around the Hamameyat checkpoint… accompanied by Islamist shelling of regime bases in the area,” the Observatory reported. 

 

Cooperation with Army of Conquest

 

Rebels announce the formation of the Army of Victory. (YouTube) 

 

One of the main FSA factions in the Army of Victory told pro-rebel outlet Orient TV that the new alliance was working hand in hand with Idlib’s Army of Conquest.

 

“Each army has its own support but there is coordination on military action—all the battles are connected,” Al-Ghab Falcons commander Lieutenant Jamil Raadoun said in a telephone call.

 

In turn, activist Ibrahim Zeidan told Anadolu that the newly united FSA factions “were treading the path of the Islamist factions that formed the Army of Conquest, and managed to realize big victories in Idlib and Hama’s Al-Ghab Plain.”

 

Zeidan said he hoped the new alliance would have “a big effect on the progress of battles, especially in northern rural Hama, of which the regime controls vast swathes.”

 

The Army of Conquest has already operated side-by-side with FSA-affiliated factions, including the Al-Ghab Falcons, in its battles further north in the Al-Ghab Plains since late April. 

Rebels fire on the Hamameyat checkpoint. (YouTube/Smart News)

Each army has its own support but there is coordination on military action—all the battles are connected