Since early morning, Syrian government forces has been conducting an offensive operation in the area of the militant-held town of Helfaya east of Mahardeh in the northern countryside of Hama. The operation was started with a hiigh number of artillery strikes targeting jihadist positions and fortifications inside the town. Then, clashes between government forces and the militant alliance led by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusrsa, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) erupted in the area.
During the clashes around the aforementioned town, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) killed a military commander of the Jaish al-Izza militant group, Nawwaf al-Saleh, and captured a number of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) vehicles including a VBIED that had failed to detonate.
From its side, HTS used a US-mad TOW missile targeting a gathering of Syrian soldiers. Jaish al-Izza also used a TOW missile against an SAA tank near al-Majd village and a Fagot missile on a 23 mm gun based east of Mahardeh.
Russian Su-34 bombers struck Jaish Al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham ammunition depots in the villages of Bab Saqa and Sarmada (near the Syrian-Turkish border) with heavy guided KH-1500I bombs.
If government forces continue a massive military pressure on militants in the area, the SAA will likely capture Helfaya in the coming days. Some experts suggest that Morek will be the next target of the Tiger Forces and 5th Corps as such an advance would enclose HTS forces between Khattab and Morek and to allow mounting pressure on jihadists in the city of Sawran.