Maps: Syrian government captures large rebel pocket, clearing all of northern Hama

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).

Advertisements

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.