Syrian War Report – March 22, 2017: ‘Moderate Opposition’ Unites With Al-Qaeda, Launches Large Attack In Hama

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Last evening, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Jaish al-Izzah, Jaish al-Nasr, Jaish idlib al-Hur, Ajnad al-Sham, the Turkistan Islamic party and other militant groups launched a large advance on the government-held town of Suran in the northern part of the province of Hama. The militants used two suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices to break government defenses and to enter Suran and Rahbet Khattab. By March 22, the joint militant forces have seized Souran, the the Rahbet Khattab army base, the town of Khattab and launched an attempt to cut the Ma’ardas -Hama road. The Syrian military lost at least 2 battle tanks. Government forces sent reinforcements to the area.

The militant advance in northern Hama came amid an intense fighting in the Qabun industrial area in the eastern countryside of Damascus where Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Faylaq al-Rahman and Ahrar al-Sham were attempting to link up Qabun with the Eastern Ghouta region. Jaish al-Islam, which was involved in the Astana peace talks, also announced an official support to the militant advance.

On Tuesday, the joint militant forces launched the second attempt to seize this important industrial zone from government forces but failed to achieve significant gains. Multiple airstrikes and artillery strikes played an important role in preventing further advances of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham and its allies. The main clashes are now taking place in the Fabric Factory which had been captured by militants.

The developments in eastern Damascus and northern Hama where Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and its allies had launched wide-scale operations against government forces clearly showed that the militants and their foreign sponsors were not interested in a peace process in Syria and used the time of the nationwide ceasefire to regroup and resupply its forces and prepare for further operations across Syria.

The Free Syrian Army’s Ahmad Abdo Forces, Faylaq al-Rahman and Jaish al-Islam have made significant gains against ISIS terrorists in eastern Qalamoun in the Rif Dimashq province. Their joint forces captured, Jabal al-Naqab, Jabal al-Sharqi, Bir al-Afa’i and the nearby areas. The Ahmad Abdo Forces, Jaish al-Islam and other successfully used the deep involvement of ISIS on other frontlines to achieve own goals in the area.

Government forces liberated the villages of Jafrah, Jannat al-Salamah, Jafar Mansour and Kharayih Diham in the Deir Hafer countryside in the province of Aleppo. Thus, the Syrian army and its allies got a fire control over the only highway which links up Deir Hafer with the rest of the ISIS-held area in the province. However, the control of Jafrah is not enough to keep the highway under the full control. Government troops will need to capture Abu Maqbarah As-Sagirah to cut off the road physically.

In the province of Raqqah, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, mostly consisting of Kurdish units, seized the town of Hamad Assaf which had been controlled by ISIS. Hamad Assaf is located in about 40 km east of Raqqah.

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  • Percival

    “The developments in eastern Damascus and northern Hama where Hayat
    Tahrir al-Sham (formerly the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and its allies
    had launched wide-scale operations against government forces clearly
    showed that the militants and their foreign sponsors were not interested
    in a peace process in Syria and used the time of the nationwide
    ceasefire to regroup and resupply its forces and prepare for further
    operations across Syria.”

    How many times is this going to happen. Fool me once, it’s on you. Fool me twice and it’s my fault.

    The first time was Spring of 2016. The SAA used the ceasefire to attempt an advance towards Raqqa and were beaten back. The “rebels” got resupplied and strengthened their position in Aleppo, making the inevitable battle harder and more bloody for the SAA and allies.

    Now this?

    • paul

      Yes this is how I see it as well. In some of my old posts I expressed my
      misgiving about the number of ceasefires, but other assured me that
      there where good reasons for them. However, I remain mystified.

      • Percival

        I don’t fault Russia for trying to negotiate, but it is clear these groups cannot be trusted and are Islamists – not “moderates”. They don’t want peace and will not keep their word.

        Somehow Syria and it’s allies must get more regular forces into the fray. More boots on the ground are needed. The advances towards Raqqa and retaking of Palmyra have been successful, but, once again. the SAA gets hit “close to home” when they expand outwards. They need more manpower.

        • Attrition47

          Yet someone was complaining a few weeks ago that they were wasting resources reducing US head-chopper pockets closer to home. I keep pointing out that this is a war of attrition.

      • Attrition47

        The Syrians and their allies are well aware of the bad faith of the US head-chopping, heart-eating rapers so go out of their way to prevent the western corp-0-rat media from painting them the aggressors by being more than reasonable to peace overtures. It also holds open opportunities to split the US head-chopping, heart-eating rapers, now that they are making their last stands. Clearly doing a deal now will be easier than when they’ve nothing left to negotiate with.

  • Sadde

    This situation with attacks on multiple fronts has been ongoing since the beginning of Syrian war. Actually the situation is quite good for the Syrian government compare to some years ago or even during last Aleppo offensive. I mean ISIS is much weaker and there are far fewer fronts with other terrorist grupps (greens). Moreover the ability of Turkey to manipulate the situation has been reduced to the Idlib areas, which I believe to be behind this fury. As decades long conflicts are not uncommon in Middle East, this battle in SyrAq is going to continue for some years to come but I believe the Syrian government, the Iraqi government and Kurds are visibly the winers of this game.

    • Manuel Chrut

      Whilst I agree, the situation remains still very volatile and can easily change. This Hama offensive shows how much support is Turkey willing to pour into rebels. The “revolution” will be over only when this support ends, otherwise we can expect more surprise offensives such as this one in Hama.

      SAA is probably in best position in years but they still have several vulnerable spots which could be exploited by the opposition groups to gain strategic advantage. Look at the map and imagine how would the situation change, should Hama fall and rebels would link the Homs pocket to Idlib (unlikely scenario, but not impossible).

      • Sadde

        Yes, as Turkey see her self not having any choice but to destabilize Syria in order to obstruct a kurdish state as long as possible, it will certainly inflame the situation as long as it can.
        And yes I believe that major terrorist actions are going to continue in the years to come.
        But I do not believe, strategically speaking, Turkey (& its allies, which vary as often as Turkeys policies) has the ability to reverse the situation, e.g. take over major states and keep it. Of Syrian state allies only Russia has been directly involved (as of yet China and Iran are not directly involved). Even russia is marginally involved. Actually I believe noting shorter than world war can reverse the trend of SyRaq with a Kurdish hatt.

  • Trustin Judeau
    • Solomon Krupacek

      not for assad

    • Solomon Krupacek

      last time the ssa was not able to take back all of lost area. only part. now this attack took more then before. you are irrealistic.
      btw., SF and AMN wrote about close idlib operation of saa and large concentrations of government forces. where are they???
      the government forces are able to lose swiftly towns and cities and months long play with taking back of them. it seems, the saa creates for himself problems and then is wasting time to solve these problems.

  • Rick Costello

    Ah, the “Moderate Opposition”… “Moderate” muslims are the one’s who film the beheadings or collect rocks to stone teenage girls to death after they’ve been raped by jihadis. I look forward to the day the Syrians and their Russian friends have put all these people down.

  • gold37

    For 6 years I have asked myself this question, how effective are the Syrian Intelligence Services? Anyone care to give me an answer?

    • Thegr8rambino

      not sure but they need one, a good one if they dont have on already

  • Corey O’Donnell

    I love these videos…excellent work.

  • EL ZORRO

    “ the militants and their foreign sponsors were not interested in a peace process in Syria and used the time of the nationwide ceasefire to regroup and resupply its forces and prepare for further operations across Syria”…And the Syrian/Russian keep making the same mistake over and over…STOP THE DAMN “peace process” AND COMPLETE DESTROY THE INTERNATIONAL MERCENARY TERRORISTS.

  • Manuel Chrut

    Take note of two events that took place a short time before the Hama offensive:
    1) ISIS attempt to cut the supply road to Aleppo between Salamiyah and Itria
    2) Skirmishes along the road between Homs and Salamiyah
    This alone would not isolate Hama but it would make it much difficult to supply the units on Hama front an generally hinder SAA’s operations (especially in Aleppo province).