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NOW

Syria regime launches
major Hama offensive

Russia has conducted intense airstrikes in support of government forces.

Rebel tank outside Hama. (AFP/Abu Hadi al-Hamwi)

BEIRUT – The Syrian regime has launched an offensive north of Hama backed by heavy Russian airstrikes amid reports of a wider military campaign to secure the government’s strategic position in the center of the country.

 

“Since the morning the fiercest clashes in months have raged on the northern edges of Hama province between regime forces and allied militias backed by Russian airstrikes on one side, and Islamist battalions and other rebels on the other,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Wednesday.

 

“Regime forces are firing rockets from their positions in Zein al-Abideen Mountain on all the liberated areas in Rural Hama, especially Kafr Zita, Lataminah and Kafr Nabudah” a media activist told Alaraby Aljadeed.

 

“This is the first time that the regime has used such intense firepower,” Abu Yazan al-Nuaimi said.

 

By midday Wednesday, Russian airstrikes were reported all throughout the Homs, Hama and Idlib provinces, while rebels vowed to put up a fierce defense north of Hama as heavy fighting continued unabated.

 

A day before the launch of the offensive, Alaraby Aljadeed said that the Syrian army was going ahead with a plan for a land battle supported by Russian air strikes on two fronts.

 

The first of these fronts lies to the south of the city of Hama. Engagements in the area will aim to open the road connecting the Hama and Homs, according to the report.

 

The second front lies north of Hama. The goal of engagements in this second area is to construct a defensive line in the Al-Ghab Plain—a strategic stretch of territory bordering the regime’s coastal heartland—in preparation for seizure of full control of the divided region.

 

After this the regime will seek to take full control of northern Hama province and then to take control of northern Syria’s cities, the London-based daily claimed.

 

Four-pronged offensive

 

Hama map

A map of the Syrian axes of attack in northern Hama. (NOW/Tania Radwan)

 

The regime’s latest offensive focuses on four axes of attacks starting from a line of government-controlled positions approximately 25-kilometers north of Hama.

 

The SOHR reported Wednesday morning that the offensive aimed to push back a rebel salient dipping toward Hama, with government forces aiming to seize the town of Lataminah in the southernmost section of the rebel lines.

 

Meanwhile, an attack was also launched further to the east to take Khan Sheikhoun as well as the Latamin and Sayyad heights, while another aimed for Atshan, and yet another further to the west set the town of Kafr Nabudah as a goal.

 

The commander of the Free Syrian Army-affiliated Al-Izza Gathering told Alaraby Aljadeed that the regime aimed to flank rebels by sweeping through the town of Habeet in the west and Khan Sheikhoun to the east.

 

Major Jamil al-Saleh explained that by passing through the area the Syrian army hopes to “surround the towns of Lataminah and Kafr Zita, and force opposition militants to abandon them.”

 

Entry into Habeet, and then Khan Sheikhoun, would lead to the surrounding from all directions of the opposition held area of north Hama, which includes the towns of Kafr Zita and Lataminah, and the villages of Kafr Nabudah and Al-Zakat, Alaraby Aljadeed explained.

 

A video purports to show a massive explosion following a missile strike outside Hama. (YouTube/Revolutionary Command Council in Hama)

 

The offensive was launched amid heavy Russian airstrikes in the area as well as intense regime shelling of the rebel positions, with the SOHR and activist accounts releasing a number of videos of the withering Russian aerial bombardment.

 

No significant territorial advances were registered in the early hours of the regime’s campaign, and the SOHR said that a Free Syrian Army-affiliated group on the frontlines, the Al-Izza Gathering, had destroyed seven regime armored vehicles.

 

“Two helicopters, which sources said were Russian, were also seen flying low and landing in tandem in the north Hama village of Morek,” the SOHR reported.

 

According to the monitoring NGO’s sources, the two aircraft were able to land “despite being targeted by heavy machinegun fire from Islamist factions.”

 

Rebels vow strong defense

 

The Army of Victory coalition vows to defend against the regime attack. (YouTube)

 

Rebels have vowed a stiff defense of their defensive lines north of Hama, while a citizen journalist from a local activist news service said the area the regime intends to invade was full of opposition fighters.

 

“Hundreds of opposition fighters are deployed there, from the village of Kafr Nabudah in the west to the town Khan Sheikhun to the east, [as well as] Habeet, Lataminah and Kafr Zita [in between them],” Mohamed al-Saleh of the Hama Media Center told Alaraby Aljadeed.

 

Saleh, who spoke to the daily from the area, said that opposition fighters had refused the regime’s demand that they should leave without a fight.

 

For its part, the Army of Victory rebel coalition, which was formed recently in the area, issued a statement on Sunday “refusing the entry of the regime army in to the village of Kafr Nabudah.”

 

The rebel coalition promised to “defend our land and honor, and prevent the Russians from encroaching upon the soil of our village,” in a YouTube video.

 

The statement added that “the Russians and the Iranians” would face “a furnace in northern Hama.”

 

In Alaraby Aljadeed’s report from Monday, Al-Izza Gathering commander Major Jamil al-Saleh stressed that “all the factions have prepared themselves to prevent the regime from taking control of the area.”

 

In turn, a commander from Free Syrian Army affiliate the Righteous Knights said that the rebel brigade would not wait for regime troops to arrive.

 

Opposition forces “have strengthened their defensive lines while a plan for attack action is being prepared,” Lieutenant Colonel Fares Beyoushi told the daily.

 

“From the beginning of the revolution we have not been in state of defense. We are in a state of attack on regime forces.”

 

“The regime is incapable of carrying out its plan.”

 

Strategic goals

 

“The regime wants to take control of all villages in northern Hama with the help of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah,” the commander of the Al-Izza Gathering said.

 

“This would secure Hama province and establish a strong defensive line that would separate opposition forces in the north from central and western Syria, and prevent them from advancing in the future.”

 

Another FSA commander—who went only by the nom de guerre Abou Khaled—told the All4Syria news outlet that the regime aimed to advance north of Hama toward the Al-Hamameyat hills “which will create the first line of defense east of the Al-Ghab Plain.”

 

In late July, a coalition of Syrian rebels routed government forces from a series of positions in the Al-Ghab Plain on the outskirts of the regime’s coastal enclave, threatening to sweep into Alawite-populated areas.

 

Back-and-forth fighting has raged since in the key region. This reportedly prompted Moscow in the summer to begin its military buildup, which now sees Russia conducting air strikes on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime.

 

Just as it aims to secure areas north of Hama, Damascus is also planning to clear the road from the central city southward to Homs in order to secure the government’s logistic lines between its coastal heartland and the capital, the FSA rebel who spoke to All4Syria said.

 

Last week, reports emerged that the Syrian regime was preparing for an offensive on a series of villages located on a strategic road northwest of Homs as Russia increases the tempo of its airstrikes

 

Rebels control an approximately 50-kilometer wide pocket of territory north of Homs which at its narrowest tendril stretches down directly from Talbisa along the key M-5 highway to the outskirts of the provincial capital.

 

However, regime forces have maintained a salient piercing into the rebel zone of control, which an stalled insurgent offensive aimed to roll back in early May in a bid to consolidate opposition front-lines northwest of Homs.

 

The purported regime mobilization to seize the villages northwest of Homs comes days after Russia began its airstrikes on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad government.

 

A number of the Russian strikes targeted rebel positions in towns north of Homs—including Talbisah and Ghantu—not far from where the activists said the regime was preparing its offensive. 

Rebel tank outside Hama. (AFP/Abu Hadi al-Hamwi)

The rebel coalition promised to “defend our land and honor, and prevent the Russians from encroaching upon the soil of our village,” in a YouTube video.

  • Gnai

    Russians or Syrian army don't wait for good or bad , once they stayed under the controll of ISIS . so it is better to finish every one whose was under ISIS once and for ever , because there mind is set for any curability, any day they can change.let it be genocide for ever.

    October 7, 2015