Syrian War Report – April 25 & 24, 2017: Syrian Army Advancing On Militant Stronghold Of Lataminah

Voiceover by Harold Hoover

Syrian government forces have regained more areas from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham-led forces in northern Hama. Government troops have captured Massanah, Zawr Mahruqah, and reached Markabah. Clashes were also reported in Buwaida and Zailaqiat. Current developments show that government forces will likely attempt to secure Buwaida and Markabah and then storm Lataminah.

Fresh speculation has been circulating in the media that Russia is preparing to deploy its ground forces to Syria following an expected official request by the Syrian government. The reports refer to some unknown military sources and argue that a plan for the deployment already exists. However, this looks like another attempt to warm things up on the diplomatic front amid the collapse of “opposition” forces in northern Hama.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have continued their steady advance against ISIS in the northern countryside of Raqqah and inside the town of Tabqah.

The SDF seized the district of Wahhab in southern Tabqa and an industrial facility in the western part of the town, allegedly killing over 10 ISIS terrorists.

While the SDF is successfully advancing inside the town, reports that the US-backed force is in control of over more than half of Tabqah are not confirmed by evidence.

In the northern countryside of the ISIS self-proclaimed capital, SDF fighters achieved full control over a number of recently encircled villages north of Al-Hazimah and Mazraat Tishrin.

On Monday, the US Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control issued sanctions against 271 employees of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center, alleging that the agency is responsible for producing chemical weapons.

“We take Syria’s disregard for innocent human life very seriously, and will relentlessly pursue and shut down the financial networks of all individuals involved with the production of chemical weapons used to commit these atrocities”, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

There are no doubts that the words “all individuals” don’t include members of al-Qaeda-style “opposition organizations” operating across Syria, specially if these “opposition organizations” fight against the Assad government.

On April 7th, the US launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Ash Sha’irat military airfield operated by the Syrian Air Force following an alleged chemical attack supposedly conducted by the Syrian government in the province of Idlib. This move was described by Washington as a legal way to send a “signal” to the Syrian government.

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Syrian War Report – April 24, 2017: Government Forces Liberate Large Areas In Northern Hama

Last weekend, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) continued loosing ground in the province of Hama. Government forces, led by the Tiger Forces and the 5th Assault Corps, liberated Halfaya, Al-Batish, Tall Batish, Zilaqiat, Al-Tarabiaa and Hisa, and secured the Mahardeh Power Plant. Government forces advanced in the villages of Buwaida, Masasinah where they were engaged in clashes with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)-led forces.

Pro-militant sources argue that the “opposition” defenses collapsed in northern Hama as a result of a long artillery and air bombing campaign conducted by the Syrian Arab Army and the Russian Aerospace Forces.

The militant-held towns of Lataminah and Morek will likely become the next mid-term targets of the ongoing government offensive in northern Hama.

Latamihan is an important logistical hub of HTS and its allies used to resupply militant units operating in the area. In 2004, the town had population over 16,000 people. According to available information, militant military HQs and operation rooms as well as a high number of weapon depots are located in tunnels under the town.

If the Syrian Arab Army and its allies retake Lataminah, they will be shorten frontline and secure their recent gains in northern Hama. The problem is that Lataminah was a constant target of airstrikes in April and in late March. Thus, a notable part of the infrastructure of the town is already damaged. Its infrastructure will be further damaged if clashes erupt in the area.

In turn, Morek is strategically located along the Hama-Aleppo highway. In 2004, the town had population over 14,000 people.

The advance along this highway will allow government troops to outflank militant forces deployed in Lataminah and Kafrzita. If government forces are able to retake Morek, militants in Lataminah will be in a very complicated situation and will likely withdraw from the town like they already did in Halfaya.

The problem is that this operation will draw more resources than the direct advance on Lataminah. So, it will not be possible if ISIS launches some “unexpected” large-scale advance in the countryside of Palmyra or at the Ithriyah-Aleppo highway. The terrorist group has repeatedly did this de-facto assisting “moderate opposition” forces led by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

If government forces don’t face an additional military pressure on the other frontlines from some tactical allies of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, they will likely continue to develop the advance in order to secure the whole northern countryside of Hama.

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Hezbollah assassinates notorious Al-Qaeda booby trap chief near Lebanese border

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (8:45 P.M.) – According to Hezbollah’s media wing, an infamous jihadist commander of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), identified Abu Qassem Al-Talleh, was killed by a roadside bomb planted by the Lebanese paramilitary group outside his base Kharbet Youneen area in Juroud Arsal.

Ironically, Abu Qassem Al-Talleh himself was known to be a mass producer of IED’s (improvised explosive devices) in the mountainous eastern Lebanese border region, frequently targeting government troops and Hezbollah during their patrols.

Although the jihadist car was virtually blown apart, the HTS chief’s assistant Abou Dujanah Al-Lebnani somehow managed to survive the IED attack although he was said to be in critical condition. Both held Lebanese passports but were wanted by the Lebanese government.

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