On March 1, Russia and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) informed local opposition leaders and Free Syrian Army (FSA) commanders in the town of Qalaat al-Madiq and the areas around it in the northwestern Hama countryside that they should hand over all of their positions to the SAA, according to the Syrian pro-opposition news outlet Sham Network.
The media outlet claimed that Russia is planning to establish several observation posts in the area once it’s handed over to the SAA. Russia also promised the local opposition leaders that it will restore all public services to their areas, if the FSA withdraws from it.
The plan to establish Russian observation posts in the northwestern Hama countryside is likely a part of the Astana agreement. In February, Turkey established three observation posts in the provinces of Aleppo and Idlib as a part of the same agreement.
Russia and the SAA also threatened to launch a military operation against militants in the northwestern Hama countryside if they don’t hand over their positions there within 48 hours, according to Sham Network.
Local opposition leaders and FSA commanders formally rejected the demands, according to Syrian opposition sources. Moreover, the remaining units of US-backed Jaysh al-Izza announced in an official statement that they are ready to repel any attack of the SAA in the northwestern Hama countryside.
Any military operation against the FSA in northwestern Hama countryside will likely be conducted by the Syrian Marines or even ISIS Hunters, as all other forces are currently taking part in the East Ghouta pocket offensive.
However, local sources believe that a military operation there is not near yet, and that Russia and SAA will try other peaceful solutions to implement the Astana agreement because they are currently focusing on securing the Syrian capital, Damascus.