On April 23, Syrian government forces liberated the important town of Helfaya from the joint militant forces led by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) in the northern part of the province of Hama. Government troops also took control of Tal Batish, Batish and Sensher.
The Syrian National Defense Forces (NDF; a volunteer force assisting the Syrian Arab Army) was first to enter Halfaya.
According to pro-government sources, some 38 vehicles including 3 battle tanks were captured by government troops in Halfaya and the nearby area. However, this number looks to be overestimated. (or some pro-government sources just counted some cars used by militants in the area)
Pro-militant sources argue thatthe “opposition” defenses collapsed in the area as a result of a week long artillery and air bombing campaign conducted by the Syrian Arab Army and the Russian Aerospace Forces.
At the same time, the Tiger Forces and the 5th Assault Corps also continued their joint advance in northern Hama.
— Military Advisor (@miladvisor) April 23, 2017
Government forces advanced in the villages of Hissa, Buwaida, Masasinah where they faced some resistance from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)-led forces.
The militant-held towns of Lataminah and Morek will become the next mid-term target of the ongoing government offensive.
Latamihan is an important logistical hub of HTS and its allies used to resupply militant units operating in the area. If the Syrian Arab Army and its allies retake Lataminah, they will be shorten frontline and secure their recent gains in northern Hama. The problem is that Lataminah was a constant target of airstrikes in April and in late March. Thus, a notable part of the infrastructure of the town is already damaged. Its infrastructure will be further damaged if clashes erupt in the area.
In turn, Morek is strategically located along the Hama-Aleppo highway. The advance along this highway will allow government troops to outflank militant forces deployed in Lataminah and and Kafrzita. If government forces are able to retake Morek, militants in Lataminah will be in a very complicated situation and will likely withdraw from the town like they already did in Halfaya. (More about the core concept operation to retake Halfaya could be found here)
The problem is that this operation will draw more resources than the direct advance on Lataminah. So, it will not be possible if ISIS launches some “unexpected” large-scale advance in the countryside of Palmyra or at the Ithriyah-Aleppo highway. (the terrorist group has repeatedly did this de-facto assisting “moderate opposition” forces led by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham)
Some photos from the Helfaya area: