Map: Syrian Army breakthrough deep into rebel territory threatens rebel supply line to Khan Shaykhun

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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 same day, Syrian airstrikes targeted Maarat Hurmah, Maarat Numan, and Dayr al-Sharqi (where they killed a woman and six of her children in their house).

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.

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Syrian Army captures town of Hobait, entering Idlib province (with timelapse map)

Situation around the town of Hobait after the Syrian Army capture. Russian airstrikes and Syrian artillery made the difference in this battle, killing and injuring a large portion of the rebel garrison before the latter withdrew to the east.
Situation at Sukayk/Atshan in northeast Hama province. Syrian troops launched an offensive capturing Sukayk hill after a days-long buildup of troops along the frontline. Jihadist rebels launched a suicide bomb attack attempting to recapture the hill, but failed.
Timelapse map of Northern Hama offensive from 28 July to 11 August. The Syrian Army reversed its fortunes in Northern Hama, expelling moderate rebel forces from much of the area and putting long-time rebel stronghold towns under threat or even capturing them. Russian airstrikes and Syrian barrel-bomb attacks largely made the difference in this offensive, making it almost impossible for rebel militants to move above-ground in vehicles without being killed or injured. Several towns (including Kafr Nabudah, Hamamiyat, Arbain, Zakah, Kafr Zita, and Khan Shaykhun) were largely destroyed by the air campaign.