Syrian army starts operation against rebels in Hama
The Syrian army has started an operation against the rebels in the northern countryside of the central province of Hama, the pro-government al-Watan newspaper reported Tuesday.
Buoyed up by artillery shelling and airstrikes, the army succeeded over the past hours in capturing three towns and a strategic hilltop in the northern and northwestern countryside of Hama.
The military operation aims to eliminate the rebels of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) from the northern countryside of Hama, al-Watan said.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Syrian army captured after midnight Tuesday the strategic Tal Othman area in northern Hama after battles with the rebels.
According to the London-based watchdog, the airstrikes renewed Tuesday morning on the rebel-held areas in Hama countryside as well as the nearby countryside region of the northern provinces of Idlib and Aleppo.
The Russian warplanes conducted 26 airstrikes after midnight Tuesday, it said.
The escalation between the army and the rebels in Hama has lasted eight days.
Areas in the countryside of Hama, Idlib and the western countryside of Aleppo are included in the de-escalation zones deal which was reached between Russia and Turkey in September 2018.
The deal failed to materialize as the HTS, umbrella group of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, expanded in Idlib and started attacks on Syrian military positions instead of withdrawing from the designated zone which combines Idlib with Hama and Aleppo countryside.
It’s unclear yet whether the ongoing military operation will focus only on Hama countryside or expand to include Idlib, last major rebel stronghold in Syria.