Last night a major-scale offensive of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Jund al-Aqsa against government forces took place in northern Hama. The so-called “opposition” seized the hill of Bijo and aimed to seize the town of Mahardeh, mostly populated by Christians. If Islamist militants are able to succeed in this, there would be a massacre of civilians in the area. However, the Syrian army and the National Defense Forces (NDF) rebuffed the attack and retook control of the Bijo Hill. The situation in the area remains tense.
The night incident clearly showed existing gaps in the ceasefire agreement signed by the Syrian government and a number of armed groups and brokered by Turkey and Russia. While the document allegedly (the ceasefire deal’s text is not available online) states that the only sides excluded from the ceasefire are Jabhat al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and ISIS, only 7 groups officially signed the deal. Their total manpower is estimated from 52,000 to 62,000 fighters. The total number of militants in Syria, excluding ISIS members, is estimated by experts as 120,000 – 130,000. So, only about a half of the so-called “opposition” claimed its adherence to the ceasefire.