DAMASCUS, SYRIA (2:00 A.M.) – This evening, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) mobilized its soldiers for a renewed push in northern Hama, targeting a rural area south of Lataminah.
Spearheaded by the 4th Division, 8th Division, 5th Legion and National Defence Forces, government assault troops captured the Zaleen checkpoint and overran Ard Zaleen in an area just two kilometers south of Lataminah.
According to Al-Masdar News field correspondent Ibrahim Joudeh, some 40 fighters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) were killed and an estimated 50 militants injured during clashes over the past 48 hours that also involved three failed rebel attacks on the newly liberated village of Zalaqiyat.
The latest government advances caused Jaish Al-Nasr and Jaish Al-Izza to regroup for the all-important defense of Lataminah, reducing the fields between the Islamist stronghold and SAA troops to de facto no man’s land.
While listening in over walkie-talkie, the SAA heard FSA commanders desperately call allied factions, most notably Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), to aid in the looming battle for Lataminah before it is too late. This imperative town has been under insurgent control since 2012 and has been targeted by hundreds of airstrikes over the past week.
With the FSA setting up trenches and readying fortifications at Lataminah, the town may soon fall into government hands if rebel reinforcements do not arrive immediately. HTS is based around nearby Morek and retreated from the Lataminah axis earlier this week.
According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, Hama is excluded from the newly established safe zone that envelopes Idlib province, preventing sorties over the rebel-held region.