Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), a recent merger of several jihadist factions led by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda), continued its rapid advance against Syrian government forces in the northern countryside of Hama.
Following their success in Souran, jihadists captured the villages of Balhassin, Arzeh, and Talat al-Shiha and deployed dangerously close to Qamhana and the Hama Military Airport.
HTS units reportedly captured the town of Maardas. But this has not been confirmed by photos and videos yet.
Government forces positions captured by HTS in Souran:
The Hama Military Airport is considered one of the Russian forces’ most important deployment hubs in Syria. The airport is often visited by Russian military servicemen and attack helicopters of the Russian Aerospace Forces use it as a transfer point.
A pro-militant map of the situation in northern Hama:
Considering the intricate defenses of the military facility, it is unlikely that HTS will manage to seize it or to deliver a significant damage to it. On the other hand, Qamhana is a staunchly loyalist stronghold with most of its residents fighting in the Tiger Forces formations of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA).
A militant launches an anti-tank guided missile against an alleged T-72 battle tank belonging to the SAA:
— WorldOnAlert (@worldonalert) March 22, 2017
It is important to note that this is not the first time al Qadda-led forces managed to near these areas. In fact, they’d blitzed into this area a few times with the last being in 2015.
The SAA’s Tiger Forces move to northern Hama:
Like before, the SAA is expected to recapture those areas as reinforcements pour into the troubled front. Right now some units of the Tiger Forces are moving from Aleppo to northern Hama.
According to reliable sources, government forces deployed in the region have been ordered to keep a defensive posture until their ranks are reorganized for a successful counterattack – a tactic frequently used by the SAA.
Advancing HTS militants:
Some government reinforcements reportedly arrived northern Hama (source):