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Rebels preparing advance on Hama: reports

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that rebels were massing troops north of the city in “preparation for a wide-scale offensive.”

Jund al-Aqsa fighters driving toward northern Hama

BEIRUT – Syrian rebels are allegedly preparing for an offensive aimed at driving toward the “gates of Hama” weeks after rolling back regime lines north of the city, according to an activist media outlet.

 

Enab Balad reported Wednesday that opposition forces will soon launch the “second stage” of their Hama operation, after rebels advanced within 15 kilometers of the regime-held city following the launch of a blistering offensive on August 29.

 

A well-informed source, who refused to disclose his name, told the online magazine that the upcoming offensive will bring rebels “to the gates of the city,” while forecasting that the operation “will lead to the collapse of [regime] force’s fortifications” along the northern and northwestern entrances of Hama.

 

The source also ruled out the idea that the campaign would be halted by the cessation of hostilities brokered by Russia and the US that went into effect on Monday, which has seen a relative lull in fighting settle over Syria.

 

“Rebel factions in the province will not stop until they enter the city,” the source boasted, while calling the cessation of hostilities “fragile” and “illogical.”

 

While the insurgent factions involved in Hama fighting have not issued any statements regarding an upcoming offensive, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Thursday that they were massing troops outside key points north of the city.

 

“The northwestern and northeastern outskirts of Hama have witnessed [rebel] military mobilization,” the NGO tracking developments in the war-torn country said.

 

The Observatory claimed that Jund al-Aqsa—which has spearheaded recent battles north of Hama—as well other Islamist groups, including Junoud al-Sham, Faylaq al-Sham and Ajnad al-Sham, in addition to Free Syrian Army-affiliated factions were all mobilizing their troops.

 

According to the report, the factions were preparing “for the commencement of a wide-scale offensive targeting Maan, Qomhaneh and Jabal Zayn al-Abidin,” the latter two locations representing the regime’s last defensive lines directly north of Hama.

 

“The factions have summoned military reinforcements, including armored vehicles and ammunition, in preparation for launching the battle at any moment,” it added. 

 

NOW's English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report.

Jund al-Aqsa fighters driving toward northern Hama's Tayyibat al-Imam on August 31, 2016. (AFP/Omar Haj Kadour)

The factions have summoned military reinforcements, including armored vehicles and ammunition, in preparation for launching the battle at any moment.