The Islamist rebel coalition “Jaysh Al-Fateh” (Army of Conquest), spearheaded by the Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate “Jund Al-Aqsa”, captured the strategically important town of Morek, alongside a half dozen other sites after the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) pulled out without offering much resistance.

Prior to retreating, it took the pro-government forces an astonishing 9 months to capture the town: so why did the army give it up so easily?

Well, the answer is rather surprising – when the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) attacked the government’s only supply route to the Aleppo Governorate, they managed to seize 3,7 kilometers of road between the two Hama Governorate towns of Khanasser and Ithriya.

This loss caused an imminent emergency in Aleppo that subsequently forced the Military High Command to enforce a massive redeployment, which effectively resulted in the thinning of the  northeastern Hama line of defense against the ISIS terrorists.

Hours after ISIS launched an attack on the roadway, the seasoned 555th Brigade of the 11th Tank Division was rapidly redeployed to liberate the Khanasser-Ithriya Highway, leaving many defensive positions around Morek exposed, which enabled a major rebel offensive.

The largely inexperienced 47th and 87th Brigades of the 11th Tank Division were delegated with the defensive objectives; however, they found themselves heavily outmanned and outgunned by an overwhelming number of insurgents which subsequently forced them to retreat.

The current SAA line of defense has been stabilized north of Ma’an and Souran, at least for now.

Currently, rebel fighters have maintained their primary initiative; nevertheless, rumors are circulating that the elite Tiger Forces are set to be deployed in northern Hama after the liberation of the Kuweires Military Airport.

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If this is in fact the case, the battle for northern Hama should intensify in the coming weeks.

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Student currently living in Denmark. Special focus on news from Syria, MENA map-making and strategical military analysis.

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