DAMASCUS, SYRIA (3:35 P.M.) – Almost two weeks after the jihadi groups launched their massive attack on northern Hama countryside, the government forces have regained the lead after reversing all jihadi gains and recapturing almost all towns and points lost.
Today, the Syrian Army began a wide-scale military operation to reclaim the town of Halfaya, located some 25 km to the north of Hama city. The operation was initiated by heavy missile and artillery shelling conducted by the Army units positioned in Batish and Majdal to the south.
No major ground invasion has yet been made; however, the troops were capable of making a significant advance in the southern fields of the town.
Located only 2 km to the east of Mahardah, the town retains a strategic importance since it serves as the launching pad for militants to attack the predominantly-Christian city.
For years Mahardah has been targeted with mortars and homemade rockets fired from the rebel-held Halfaya, which – if recaptured – will form a major blow to the opposition forces and pave the way for the Army to expand northward and tighten the noose around the insurgent-controlled Tibat al-Imam.
Pro-rebel accounts on social media mourned the death of scores of militants including Nawaf al-Saleh; a field commander of the FSA-affiliated Jaish al-Izza which currently fights under the banner of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhet al-Nusra).