Damascus, Syria – (9:38 P.M.) Militants from a range of Islamist groups, including the newly-formed Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) group, and the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) launched a wide-scale offensive on the 21st of March in the Hama countryside. Although the offensive did initially yield significant territorial gains, pro-government have managed to retake ground throughout the offensive, and maintain composure.
For example, forces from the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) successfully liberated the village of Kawkab. Since the deployment of units from the 5th Corps and Tiger Forces to Hama, opposition militants have struggled to advance, and their offensive has lost much of its momentum.
It seems that they aimed to capture areas lost to the Syrian Army in 2016, and potentially seize the provincial capital, Hama city. According to a senior official in the Russian military, more than 10,000 terrorists have been involved in the recent offensive.
“A number of militant formations attempted to seize the city of Hama since March 21. In the area under opposition control a group was formed numbering more than 10,000, with the foundation of Jabhat al-Nusra and bandit formations that joined them,” Sergei Rudskoy, the Chief of the Russian General Staff Main Operational Directorate said.
Although fighting in the province is ongoing, with neither side possessing a definitive edge, it is abundantly clear that anti-government, Islamist militants have lost their ability to launch large-scale, successful offensives against areas under the sanctuary of the Syrian government, as they did in the 2015 Idlib offensive.
A key difference between the two offensives is the presence of warplanes & attack helicopters from the Russian Air Force (RUAF.) This has certainly helped the SAA keep the militants at bay; the Russian Air Force (RUAF) & Syrian Arab Air Force (SYAAF) destroyed terrorist reinforcements in Hama, preventing pro-government forces from being overwhelmed.
On a separate note, over the past year or so, there has been regular in-fighting between Islamist groups in Syria, killing hundreds, or even thousands of terrorists. It is unclear if this has significantly deteriorated the militants’ strength, but it certainly bodes well for their opponents.
With Russian assistance and expertise, new pro-government units have been created, and entered the battlefields. For example, the 5th Corps was created and developed with help from Russia. As already mentioned, the 5th Corps has played a key role in defending Hama, and shortly after they were dispatched to the area, the attacking militants lost momentum. The 5th Corps, and other relatively new, elite units have also demonstrated their ability to spearhead offensives in a variety of different scenarios and conditions, ranging from Aleppo city, to Palmyra.
As it stands, militant groups, such as HTS, have gained from their recent Hama offensive, but their decline in Hama, and other areas in Syria is inevitable, provided they don’t receive significant external support.
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