The Syrian Army has now taken all of northern Hama Governorate from rebel forces, creating a new frontline inside the southern part of Idlib Governorate 25 km shorter than before (and freeing up many front line guard troops for future operations). The government took from rebel forces the strategic city of Khan Shaykhun, as well as the devastated towns of Latamina, Kafr Zita, and Morek. The Turkish Army observation post in northern Hama has still not been evacuated, and is now surrounded by Syrian Army troops and tanks at close range (as short as 100 meters). The moderate rebel group Jaish al-Izza has lost its territory due to this battle. This leaves jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in control of the front line with government forces, with a few exceptions in the southeast of Idlib (such as the Free Syrian Army Mountain Hawks Brigade and the National Liberation Front).
L’armée syrienne a pris deux postes de contrôle autour la ville de Khan Cheikhoun le soir 2019-08-18. Ensuite, peu après minuit, les troupes armées avaient lancé un assaut au nord de Khan Cheikhoun et ont pris une partie de la ville.
Le nombre du combattants morts des dernières 24 heures approchant quatre vingt-dix. L’ensemble de la région tenue par les rebelles au nord de Khan Cheikhoun est sous l’assaut écrasant du gouvernement, soutenu par des frappes aériennes sans arrêt de chasseurs à réaction et d’hélicoptères. Presque une mille civils syriennes sont morts au cours des quatre derniers mois, presque tous était dans les zones contrôlées par les rebelles.
The Syrian Army captured two checkpoints from jihadist group Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham in the evening of 2019-08-18. Just after midnight, Army troops launched an attack from the northern direction (an area poorly fortified by rebels) and entered Khan Shaykhun city. Several city blocks and neighborhoods were cleared, as rebel forces engaged in a fighting retreat. The city is now almost devoid of civilians after over ten thousand people fled over the past month northward to refugee camps and rebel-held cities like Idlib. Tahrir al-Sham was also unable to reverse yesterday’s loss of tactically important high ground northwest of Khan Shaykhun despite multiple car bombings, showing the group is now finding it difficult to effectively counter the Syrian Army in prolonged battles.
So far, dozens of fighters have died on both sides, with the death toll of the past 24 hours approaching 100. The entire rebel-held area north of Khan Shaykhun is under overwhelming government assault backed by nonstop Syrian and Russian airstrikes from jet fighters and helicopters. Almost 1,000 civilians have died in the past 4 months, almost all of them in rebel-held areas.
Over the past two days the Syrian Army, backed by both targeted and indiscriminate bombing, advanced deep into rebel territory in Idlib province, attacking far into an area the rebels never thought to defend.
After capturing the town of Madaya two days ago (while Russian airstrikes killed 2 children, 12 other civilians and wounded 30 on a refugee camp near the town of Hass), the Syrian Army briefly paused on August 17 to fortify their gains.
The day afterwards (today), bombs from the Syrian Air Force tumbled down by the dozen on nearby towns like Kafr Sajanah, Maarat Hurmah, and Hish, killing both militants and civilians.
These combined effect of these airstrikes has so far caused several thousand people to flee from southern Idlib to the north for safety, although they are still at risk of being targeted as August 16th’s totally indiscriminate strikes as far north as Ariha have shown.
The most recent Syrian Army advance in the unusual and risky direction east of Rakaya and northwest of Khan Shaykhun has caught the rebels by surprise and scared Turkey, which so far refused to withdraw its troops from itd observation post at the frontline town of Morek (a location at high risk of being besieged by government advances). It remains to be seen if this new bold tactical gambit will pay off by collapsing all rebel defenses in Hama due to confusion, or if the rebels will rally and beat back the Army in a counteroffensive.
If one thing is for sure, the next few days will be some of the deadliest in the civil war since the battle to defeat ISIS in eastern Syria five months ago.
Overnight, the Syrian Army’s Tiger Forces captured the small villages of Hasariyah and Abu Raidi Sharqiyah, putting them within firing distance of the towns of Zakah and Arbain. At noon, Arbain was captured by the Syrian Army. These towns are stronghold of the FSA-aligned Jaish al-Izza (Army of Glory) group. The group peacefully withdrew from Hasariyah overnight, leaving Army troops to seize the area after sunrise.
This morning’s advance came after yesterday’s advance into what used to be longstanding rebel territory. It is unlikely that government forces will stop after gaining control of Arbain. They are seeking to build a bigger buffer zone along the road between the Christian towns of Maharda and Suqaylabiya. The road was previously cut by the mid-June rebel offensive, making it free travel and access difficult for the Syrian military and civilians alike.
On 30 July 2019, after recapturing the villages of Tal Maleh and Jibeen the day before, the Syrian Army decided to continue its advance in northern Hama governorate. Capitalizing on the rebel retreat from Jibeen, the Army’s Tiger Forces shock troops unexpectedly rushed towards the town of Zakah (Zakat). Supported by an extensive air and artillery bombardment which cratered fields and destroyed several houses, the Army captured a small village called Abu Raidi Gharbiyah and now finds itself in control of key farmlands on the southern and southwestern approaches to Zakah, a town held by the rebels since December 2012. If the Syrian Army manages to capture this town, it could set the scene for an assault on the Free Syrian Army stronghold of Kafr Zita or a move further eastward to besiege the frontline bastion town of Lataminah. The strategic balance in Northern Hama has not been fundamentally altered yet, but the next few days could prove crucial to the future of the area going forward.
Two oil tankers caught fire in an apparent attack in the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz on the morning of June 13. One of the two ships, the crude oil tanker Front Altair, had departed from the United Arab Emirates port of Ruwais and was on course for the port of Kaohsiung in Taiwan. The ship is owned by Frontline, a shipping company based in Norway, and is registered under the Marshall Islands.
Satellite images taken less than an hour after the ship reported an explosion show the ship burning and spreading a large cloud of billowing black smoke into the air. Multiple smaller boats can also be seen speeding and circling around the boat, revealed by their large wakes in the sea. Shortly after transiting the Strait of Hormuz, the Front Altair experienced an explosion which created a large hole just above the waterline. Some of the crude oil leaked out while on fire, creating the sideways plume of smoke.
The 23 crew members all evacuated the vessel and were rescued by a South Korean cargo vessel called the Hyundai Dubai that was in the area at the time. The rescue was completed 74 minutes after the Front Altair sent out its distress call, about 30 minutes after these satellite images were captured. According to Iran, the ship has sunk into the water, though there are still conflicting reports of whether this is the case.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for the incidents, saying Iran is “responsible” for the attacks. In the speech, he also mentioned a list of supposed Iranian aggressions against the US, citing a “On May 31st, a car bomb in Afghanistan wounded four US servicemembers, killed four Afghan civilians, and wounded bystanders”. This attack (which took place in Kabul, 470 miles away from the Iranian border) was not conducted by Iran, but by the Taliban. Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s main spokesman, said in a statement that the attack targeted a convoy of “senior foreign advisers”.
The latest battle in Syria between the government and rebels is a marked change from the previous six months, in which there was not major conflict between the two sides of the war. However, the death toll of this new round of fighting has already vastly exceeded the death toll of the Battle of Baghouz earlier in 2019, in which the territory of ISIL was captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces. Over 1,100 have died in the past five weeks, compared to around 600 in the six weeks of the Battle of Baghouz. The back and forth fighting and fierce attempt by each side to deny the other a victory is easily seen from this timelapse animation of the five week battle.
The Syrian Army has now taken all of northern Hama Governorate from rebel forces, creating a new frontline inside the southern part of Idlib Governorate 25 km shorter than before (and freeing up many front line guard troops for future operations). The government took from rebel forces the strategic city of Khan Shaykhun, as well… Read more
Hello and welcome to the 888th installment of the SWD. Military events/news are listed below by the governorates: