On December 17, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the National Defense Forces (NDF) backed by the Russian Aerospace Forces repelled a surprise attack of the US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) group Jaysh al-Izza and al-Qaeda on its positions in the northern Hama countryside, according to Syrian pro-government sources. The SAA reportedly recaptured all the checkpoints and positions it lost in the areas of Zilaqiat and Zilen.
The SAA killed four fighters of Jaysh al-Izza, according to the Hezbollah media wing in Syria. Pro-government sources added that several fighters of Jaysh al-Izza were also captured by the SAA during the clashes in Zilaqiat and Zilen.
Moreover, Syrian opposition activists revealed that the SAA killed “Salah Eddine Al-Checheni”, a high-ranked commander of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar during the clashes in northern Hama. This confirms that al-Qaeda-affilated militants participated in the Jaysh al-Izza attack.
Before retreating, Jaysh al-Izza announced that its fighters captured six SAA soldiers, and an artillery piece.
Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the FSA and al-Qaeda-affiliated groups will likely to launch similar attacks in the upcoming days. However, such attacks will likely not allow the militants to achieve any significant gains.