Rebel forces in northwestern Syria have launched their fourth offensive in four years to “reach the heart of Hama city” and take control of the nearby military airport. An islamist coalition of Hay’at Tahrir a-Sham (HTS) and FSA-affiliated Jaish al-Izza announced coordinated military offensives in the northern countryside. As a result, the rebels managed to capture numerous towns north of the provincial capital.
It is thought that the renewed military offensive in the northern countryside would relieve pressure on rebel forces battling the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in eastern Damascus. But they all stressed that the attack was not just a diversionary tactic but rather an all-out effort to breach the fortified regime bastion of Hama city, a long-sought prize for Syria’s northern rebels.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said insurgents had captured the towns of Soran, 20 km (12 miles) north of the city, Khattab, 10 km northwest of Hama, and al-Majdal, 6 km west of Khattab.
Rebel forces last attempted to take control of Hama city in September 2016. The advance, however, stalled one month later when Islamist and FSA-affiliated opposition factions withdrew from the frontlines in order to fight each other. The outbreak of infighting among the factions allowed SAA forces to regain the northern Hama towns that the rebels took in the preceding weeks.