On the evening of July 28 the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Tiger Forces and their allies renewed their advance on militant positions in northern Hama. In the ensuing series of clashes, government troops eliminated at least 5 units of military equipment belonging to militants and up to 10 members of militant groups.
By the evening of July 29, the SAA and its allies had established full control of the villages of Jibeen and Tell Meleh, and the nearby hilltop. The advance was supported by several dozens of Syrian and Russian airstrikes.
On July 30, government forces made a new attempt to capture the town of Kbanah which is jointly controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the Turkistan Islamic Party. Pro-government sources claim that this advance was launched in the framework of a larger effort to pressure militants along the contact line creating a wider buffer zone, wide enough to prevent them from shelling civilian areas. Nonetheless, this attempt was as unsuccessful as the several previous ones made over the last few months.
The start of the SAA advance took place as a report by the Russian military appeared that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham is deploying reinforcements to the southern part of the Idlib de-escalation zone.
The head of the Russian General Staff’s Main Operational Department Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi said on July 29 that around 300 fighters, 10 battle tanks and 20 vehicles armed with guns were employed by militants in the recent clashes in northern Hama. He added that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham had redeployed 500 of its fighters from the northern part of the de-escalation zone to the frontline.
At the same time, the Russian military noted that U.S. forces are looting oil fields and farmlands in northeastern Syria.
“Syrian oil is extracted and sold from the fields of Conico, al-Omar and al-Tanak located on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. There is a criminal scheme to transport Syrian oil across the border,” Col. Gen. Rudskoi said adding that the number of U.S. private military contractors deployed to secure this effort exceeded 3,500.
The US is also preparing militant sabotage groups that would be tasked with attacks on infrastructure to destabilize the situation in the government-held areas. These groups are being formed from around 2,700 members of Jaysh Maghawir al-Thawra and other militant groups trained by the US.
Israel has expanded its operations against ‘Iranian targets’ to Iraq employing F-35 jets, Asharq Al-Awsat, an Arabic-language newspaper published in London, reported on July 30 citing Western diplomatic sources.
According to the report, an Israeli F-35 warplane was behind a July 19 strike on a supposed rocket depot at the ‘Camp Ashraf’ military base of the Popular Mobilization Units. At the time the Saudi-based al-Arabiya network claimed that members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and Hezbollah had been killed in the strike. However, this claim was subsequently denied by Iraqi sources.