DAMASCUS, SYRIA (1:55 A.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) appears to be unstoppable in the northern countryside of Hama as new villages were liberated on Tuesday following a massive rebel collapse over the past week.
Led by the elite assault troops of the Tiger Forces, government forces managed to impose full control over the villages of Massasnah, Zour Al-Mahrouqa and Zour Al-Taibah.
According to a military source, the capture of Massasnah in the morning hours prompted the fall of its adjacent villages which were sitting ducks for airstrikes and storming operations; both Zour Al-Mahrouqa and Zour Al-Taibah were liberated by noon.
Remarkably, some 20 vehicles – including tanks, BMP’s and technicals – were destroyed by Russian airstrikes and SAA operations on Tuesday alone. On the other hand, rebel factions claimed to have taken out a handful of SAA vehicles and field guns.
With around 30 insurgents, mostly from Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), killed on the northern Hama battlefield, the top military commander of Ajnad Al-Sham, nicknamed Ali Abood, also paid the ultimate price due to a Russian bunker-buster bomb which landed on his underground headquarters in the town of Lataminah.
With clashes ongoing in the contested village of Al-Zalqiyat, the Russian Air Force carried out non-stop sorties on HTS rearguard areas, most notably on Kafr Zita, Lataminah, Markebeh, Khan Sheikhun, and Al-Buwydah.
Effectively, the SAA is inching closer to Lataminah, an Islamist stronghold which has been under rebel control since 2012.
16 Islamist factions are operational in northern Hama and have now formed a joint operations room, commanded by HTS. These groups include:
Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate)
Free Idlib Army
Turkistan Islamic Party
Liwa Ahrar Halfaya
Harkatul Muhajireen Sunna (Iranian Al-Qaeda group)
Combined, these rebel forces ammount to an estimated 6,000 militants.
On the other hand, renown general Suheil Al-Hassan is leading the SAA contingents. Around a dozen army factions and paramilitary groups are involved in the ongoing counter-offensive. Notably, virtually all Tiger Forces units have been deployed to the region. At least 12,000 government troops are deployed to this volatile frontier.
A larger version of the map can be found here.