On September 19, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and its allies launched a large-scale military operation against the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the National Defense Forces (NDF) in northern Hama. The main Hayat Tahrir al-Sham(HTS)-led attack took place in Ma’an. However, fierce clashes also took place near al-Tulaysian.
By September 19 evening, the SAA and the NDF, supported by the Tiger Forces and the Russian Aerospace Forces, had repelled the attack on Ma’an. However, militants entered Tulaysiyah, Ash Shata, Tel Al-Aswad and Al-Qahira. In total, about 40 militants were killed.
Militants also lost 2 battle tanks, including a Russian-made T-90 battle tank operated by HTS. This tank was seized by government forces during an active phase of the anti-HTS campaign in northern Syria.
HTS T-90 tank was destroyed yesterday in the northern Hama countryside by the SAA pic.twitter.com/LM7STGp4Ng
— Within Syria (@WithinSyriaBlog) 20 September 2017
Pro-HTS media blamed Russian attack helicopters and warplanes as well as a lack of support from the moderate opposition explaining casualties. According to pro-HTS sources, government forces had lost up to 30 fighters.
On September 20, an intense fighting continued in the villages of Tulaysiyah, Ash Shata, Tel Al-Aswad and Al-Qahira where government forces were attempting to re-gain the initiative.
In general, HTS failed to achieve its main goal – to seize the government strong point of Ma’an during its operation. Without this, the militants will likely not be able to develop momentum in the area.
Mil Mi-24 attack helicopters purge militants in nrothern Hama:
A look at the clashes in northern Hama:
Syrian Arab Army (Qomhana Force) today @ the North Hamah countryside clashing rebels after attacks of the new rebel offensive: pic.twitter.com/hJk0TenoFA
— TheMoroccanBaathist (@MorocanArab) 20 September 2017
The Russian Aerospace Forces operate both Mi-24 and Mi-35 helicopters in Syria. A Mi-35M is an upgrated version of the Mi-24.