Syrian War Report – March 31, 2017: Govt Forces Regain Large Areas In Northern Hama

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Government forces have restored control over Khirbat al-Hajamah, Zawr al Bala, Bakhira, Arzeh and Balhiseen from the joint militant forces led by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in northern Hama. The advances were made because of an advantage in artillery and airpower in the area. The Syrian army’s Tiger Forces, the National Defense Forces and the 5th Legion entered Majdal, Tell Bijo and Khattab. But these sites still have to be secured.

The control over the strategic Mount Zayn al-Abdeen would allow government troops to further pound militant units operating in the area north of Qhomana.

Furthermore, a Russian-made TOS-1 heavy flame-thrower system was spotted firing at militant positions in northern Hama on March 29. On March 25, three TOS-1 heavy flame-thrower systems were reported en route from Tartus to Hama. All 3 systems were likely deployed to assist government troops repelling the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham-led offensive in the area.

A crew of the RT TV channel filmed US troops embedded with fighters of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), mostly consisting of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), in the area of the Tabqa dam in the province of Raqqah. US troops were spotted “just miles away” from the frontline. RT’s Lizzie Phelan also reported Marines at the northern entrance of the Tabqa dam controlled by the SDF. SDF members refused to comment the issue on camera and ordered journalists to stop filming US servicemen.

Thus, RT was able to take a look at the real situation in the Raqqah countryside hidden by the fog of the US military censorship. As SF forecasted earlier this year, the Pentagon deployed additional troops to Syria in order to provide a direct combat and military assistance to the advance on Raqqah launched by US-backed forces.

The Pentagon’s official line continued supporting Obama-style claims that US troops had not deployed close to the frontline. Indeed, this became possible due to the fact that the SDF itself is a kind of PR project. Washington has repeatedly denied that Kurdish YPG fighters are a majority of the SDF combat force, arguing that some US-backed “Arab coalition” spearheads operations. However, even the SDF Press Center’s videos cannot show these numerous Arab fighters. Instead, it constantly releases footage of Kurdish majority units operating at the frontline. However, Washington needs this Arab coalition myth to expand its influence in northeastern Syria as much as possible and to combat anti-YPG propaganda that could exploit some Kurdish-Arab tensions.

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  • Trustin Judeau
    • And your point? The “blue” area is not liberated by government forces [31.03.2017, 16:05 CET]. If the map shows that it’s “liberated”, the map is wrong.

      • Prince Teutonic

        Blue area is what’s left of Nusra gains since the start of the offensive (23.3.2017).

  • Hrky75

    If SAA and Russians don’t go for the whole salient elimination than the whole thing honestly isn’t worth the blood. This is the textbook situation for a flanking and encircling operation by taking KafrZita and Morek. If anybody managed to get out of that cattle it would be on foot and badly shot up. If SAA just stabilizes the front it’s Nusra strategic victory – SAA lost momentum in Palmira, lost the race to Tabqa, can’t really exploit ISIL retreat at Suwayda. And this is not a coincidence…

    • Jesus

      SDF and the Americans still have to take Racka, which will take many months, the northern and southern SAA pincers will be close to Racka by mid summer.
      The SDF forces west of Euphrates are succeptible to attacks from two directions.

      • Hrky75

        Der Ezzur is the real prize. Who ever controls it controls land connection between Syria, Iraq and Iran i.e. “The Shia Crescent” – and that’s the whole point of this war. if US and Kurds get there first, Syria would be finished forever and Iraq, Turkey and Iran would be involved in a new 100 years war against the Kurds (backed by Israel, US and Saudi) and against each other. And our Zionist friends would have the whole western Syria and Lebanon for themselves…

        • Jesus

          The SDF and Americans will have to take Racka first, with the Hama jihadi fiasco, the Palmyra pincer will develop and move east towards Deir Ezzor. SDF cannot move south with Racka behind them, besides, the SDF force west of Eufrates is light and limited. The Palmyra pincer would intercept them/cut them off if they adventure too far south.

          • Hrky75

            ISIL is spent force. They’ll resort to guerilla warfare soon and give up towns. This is a race now, to the border with Iraq. if the Kurds get there first they will split Syria-iraq-Iran axis, connect with Iraqi Kurds and start making insane demands about confederation, autonomy etc, with US and Israeli blessing.

          • Jesus

            The Kurds control the border with Iraq in northern Syria, I do not think they are going to go much further south. The Palmyra pincer developed and reinforced, with ISIS gone in the bushes, can move east and then fan north and south along the border with Iraq. If confronted, US position in the area is minimal and weak, and strategically speaking being sandwiched between Iran and western Syria, US is not in position for a major confrontation.
            If push comes to shove and SAA turns against the Kurds and pushes them back northward, I see a reluctant US standing up for the Kurds.
            SAA can allocate 15% of its forces along with the Hezzbolah and Iranians in the Palmyra pincer and secure the border with Iraq.

          • Hrky75

            Road from Der Ezzor to the border and beyond on the Iraqi side is in gov. controlled area. As for Kurds their spokesman already said they will keep control of all the territory taken from ISIL.

        • Thegr8rambino

          i wonder how syrian forces in the west of the country are able to communicate with forces in deir ezzor, if at all? can they call them on cellphones or internet or what?

          • Bob

            Dier Ezzor is both a town and a military air base – so at minimum the SAA would have military grade long range radio communications located at the airfield, even if are older generation Soviet era equipment. But assume Russia has offered some form of more modern electronic systems, or radio system upgrades, for long range communication with the critical holdout garrisons since their intervention in 2015. ISIS cannot jam any of those communications – if that occurred it would be indicator and result of direct foreign military action.

          • Thegr8rambino

            Wow thanks I did not know that!! Very interesting makes sense!! I wonder what they talk about

          • Bob

            Suspect something like, ‘send more food and ammo NOW…!’

          • Thegr8rambino

            haha yea

        • Bob

          Even in a theoretical worst case/ catastrophic scenario where NATO/GCC/Israel managed to create full Syrian state partition – ‘the Shia Cresent’ has one final an ace up its sleeve – an Iranian naval base on the Syrian Mediterranean coast located in remaining rump Syrian Alawite enclave. That would at minimum allow Hezbollah to continue to be supplied by sea and defend southern Lebanese territory from any Israeli long term thoughts of IDF reoccupation and incremental Israeli annexation.

          • Hrky75

            Iran would have to supply it by sea – from Bandar Abbas around Saudi Arabia, through Red Sea and Suez and then east Med to Latakia. They would be running a gauntlet with Saudi, Israeli and US navy trying to sink them – they wouldn’t stand a chance. In addition, I see “The Cresent” as essential for Syria’s survival and not the other way around.

          • Bob

            True they would face major issues – but no more so than IAF currently constantly bombing Hezbollah delivery depots around Damascus airport as is happening right now. They would be subject to intercept less sinking – as would be illegal act on open sea to arbitrarily sink any Iranian shipping. Israeli sabotage would be issue but again it essentially already is. Would require judicious use of vessels and non observable, random, pattern of weapons transfers. But other key factor is that such a naval base would in essence be right next door to the Russian naval base with full de facto Russian SAM air security from IAF threat.

        • Jonathan Cohen

          The heroic YPG forces can surround and bypass Raqqa, then bring abortion rights to Dier Ezzor and then Raqqa with the USAF controlling the open desert between. HOORAY FOR YPG ABORTION RIGHTS! NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.
          Most American’s would cheer if Russia bombed Saudi Arabia like Trump promised. Fewer, but still many Americans would cheer Iran for doing so.

    • Manuel Chrut

      I came to the same conclusion few days ago that taking Kafr Zayta and Morek would be the most feasible way to cut off the HTS offensive forces north of Hama.

      However it is not that simple to pull off. If those towns are properly defended (and I would bet they are), SAA is not going to capture both towns quickly. First, they would have to capture multiple checkpoints around the towns. The terrain there is mostly plains so this could be done fairly quickly but holding those checkpoints would be only that much harder.

      Then, pushing the defenders out of those towns would take many days, maybe weeks, during which time the SAA would be quite vulnerable to counter-attacks from the many HTS and AaS forces currently in the area.

      Any other options for a huge encirclement are only worse (in my opinion). Therefore I think SAA will keep pushing the front until the counter-offensive stalls.

      • Hrky75

        Look at the map. Both towns are dominated by hills to the south. Take the hills and you have effective fire control of the the towns and beyond (mostly plains all the way up to Khan Shaykhun). Besides, I don’t think the terrorists have enough good quality troops to cover the whole area. SAA has air cover and should have technical advantage. What it doesn’t have are 2 brigade-size units they’d have to detach from other fronts and position on either side s of the salient for a pincer movement. This head on approach costs men, equipment and time – Syria can’t spare none…

        • Thegr8rambino

          i knew an encirclement/pincer strategy was the best maneuver here! someone else told me it wouldnt work

        • Manuel Chrut

          I don’t know what hills to the south do you mean? The nearest hills are almost 20km away at Quomhane, which for fire control is way too far.
          If you are looking at the map at syria.liveuamap, then those hill icons south of those two towns are checkpoints, switch to satellite view.

          Here is the map of the area with altitude contours enabled: https://www.google.de/maps/@35.2922856,36.677811,12z/data=!5m1!1e4?hl=en

          • Hrky75

            I agree, not much of a hill, but still elevations that dominate good part of the surrounding plane.

  • Expo Marker

    The terrorists can rename themselves as much as they want, but in the end, they are terrorists who wish to rule and destroy Sham(Syria).

    • Thegr8rambino

      Absolutely 100% agree the truth!!! And they are million times worse than Assad!!!