The conglomerate of Al-Qaeda factions that form “Jaysh Al-Fateh” (Army of Conquest) are preparing for a large-scale offensive inside the Hama Governorate after withstanding an assault from the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) on the ground and a powerful aerial attack from the Russian Air Force last week.
With a number of sites lost to the Syrian Armed Forces in northern Hama and southern Idlib, Jaysh Al-Fateh – led by the Syrian Al-Qaeda group “Jabhat Al-Nusra” and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – have concentrated a large number of combatants at the Hama-Idlib axis in preparation for their long-awaited Hama offensive.
This planned assault is expected to be the second phase of the Jaysh Al-Fateh offensive inside the Hama Governorate – the first phase was the large-scale assault on the Al-Ghaab Plains’ northern countryside that links up with the strategic Idlib Governorate city of Jisr Al-Shughour; this military endeavor was successful.
However, this northern Hama offensive will have some obstacles for the Islamist rebels, as the Syrian Government stronghold of Mhardeh has been a thorn in their side for the last two years.
Last year, the Islamist rebels from Jabhat Al-Nusra attempted to advance towards the provincial capital of the Hama Governorate, but they were forestalled well-short of the aforementioned city after the National Defense Forces (NDF) repelled all of their attacks at Mhardeh; this resulted in a counter-offensive from the pro-government forces.
If the Islamist rebels can capture the provincial capital of the Hama Governorate, they will control a large portion of the Damascus-Aleppo International Highway (M-5 Highway) and they will be within a 40km of the besieged Al-Rastan Plains in northern Homs.