Syria Daily: Russian Bombing Enables Pro-Assad Advance in Northern Hama

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Russian bombing helps pro-Assad forces take town of Halfaya, opening up all of northern Hama Province to an offensive


SUNDAY FEATURE

Damascus Beyond the Propaganda: “Iranians Are First. And the Russians Are Gods”


UPDATE 0800 GMT: Multiple reports say pro-Assad forces, including Iranian-led foreign militias, have moved into Halfaya in northern Hama Province.

HALFAYA CAPTURED


Enabled by some of the heaviest Russian bombing in Syria’s six-year conflict, pro-Assad forces have turned the tide and are looking for a decisive breakthrough in northern Hama Province.

Only last month, a rebel counter-offensive had reached as close as 5 km (3 miles) from both Hama city and the military airport, threatening to break Iranian-led foreign militias as well as what remains of the Syrian army.

But Russia escalated its bombing — with intensive use of incendiary and thermobaric munitions — putting a priority on Hama over all fronts. After holding the line north of Hama city, the pro-Assad forces began to regain some of the 25 towns and villages taken by the rebels. Earlier this month, they completed the recapture of lost territory and then looked to make their own decisive advance.

Earlier this week the foreign militias and regime units moved into Taibat al-Imam, on the Damascus-to-Aleppo highway, after rebels withdrew under pressure from the Russian airstrikes.

By Friday, the pro-Assad forces were advancing on the town of Halfaya, both from the south and from Taibat al-Imam to the east.

Located on the Orontes River, Halfaya has swapped hands several times during Syria’s 73-month conflict, but it has been controlled by rebels since August 2016.

The Free Idlib Army, part of the Free Syrian Army, has issued an order for general mobilization to hold the line in northern Hama. So far, attacks on Halfaya have been repelled.

Russia is also continuing its sustained bombing of the town of Latamneh, north of Halfaya, which has been attacked with incendiary, thermobaric, and chlorine munitions over the past month.

A child cries among the destruction in the town:

Destroying the Last Medical Facility in Southern Idlib Province

The campaign to destroy infrastructure in neighboring opposition-held Idlib Province also continues unabated. Aftermath of Russian and regime strikes in southern Idlib Province, including destruction of the Shaam underground hospital near the village of Abdin:

Pro-opposition media said multiple raids killed three doctors in the operating room, destroyed by rockets that penetrated more than 10 meters.

A first responder said four patients were killed, but warned that the death toll may increase.

“Today, we’re trying to retrieve three bodies—a father, a mother and their daughter—who were present in the hospital at the moment it was targeted,” said the Civil Defense’s Ahmed al-Idlibi.

The clinic was about 10 km west of Khan Sheikhoun, the town hit by the Assad regime’s nerve agent attack on April 4 and whose hospital was bombed during the assault.

The last significant medical facility in southern Idlib, the Shaam facility has been attacked and partially destroyed three times in less than two months. After each of the previous attacks, hospital administrators rebuilt and relocated the facility, most recently attempting to shelter the building under seven meters of rock.

Hospital administrators said on Sunday that they are questioning whether it is worth rebuilding this time.

“We’re looking into new plans to transfer all health care work to the border areas if the warplanes don’t stop targeting medical facilities,” Dr. Abdullah al-Darwish, the head of Hama’s Healthcare Directorate, told Syria Direct.. “If even underground caves are targeted, why should the hospitals stay here?”

Since February 1, Russia and the Assad regime have attacked more than a dozen medical facilities across opposition-controlled areas of Idlib and Hama Provinces. The bombing has completely destroyed at least seven major hospitals, two field hospitals, four specialized clinics, and one medical warehouse.

Residents now must travel up to 100 km (62 miles) to receive medical care in Idlib City.

“The international community has been silent amidst all these attacks on medical facilities,” said Dr. Maram al-Sheikh, Shaam’s director.
“It’s reaching the point where bombing a hospital is just commonplace now. It’s not even newsworthy anymore.”

Clearing up after the attacks:

Assault on Qaboun, Northeast of Damascus

There is also intensive bombing of Qaboun, northeast of Damascus, as pro-Assad forces try once again to overrun the suburb.

The pro-Assad offensive has bombarded Qaboun and nearby towns like Barzeh and Tishreen for months in an attempt to clear out remaining opposition. The assault was interrupted last month by a rebel offensive in Jobar in northeast Damascus, briefly reconnecting with the suburbs, but has resumed with an escalation of the airstrikes and shelling.

QABOUN BOMBING 04-17 2

TOP PHOTO: Smoke rises from pro-Assad bombardment of Halfaya in northern Hama Province, April 22, 2017

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11 COMMENTS

  1. #Hama: 1) “FSA Central Division & Al-Ezzah Army seize T-72 tanks as #ghanima after failed Assad regime advance at al-#Zilaqiat checkpoint #Hama” – badly_xeroxed
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    This is in the end how the rebel offensive in Hama will sustain itself, assuming rebel gain more heavy weaponry (especially ATGMs and mortar rounds) then they lose against regime troops and this is also why I say on their front-line with regime units rebels should fill the towns/areas they know regime is going to assault with enough IEDs (e.g. booby-trapping buildings, creating mine-traps on likely assembly points, tunnel-mines, VBIEDs on narrow roads of that town/area as well as digging transportation tunnels in/out that area) and tunnels that a smaller number of rebel troops in it can defend it against a much larger regime troops for weeks (and even months?) whilst the rest of the rebel troops over-run regime check-points that protect the regime arms/ammo depot that is supplying regime operations in rebel/areas during deep-behind-the-lines night-time rebel raids. Those rebel raiding groups should be multiple (3 or 4?) groups of fast-moving (using truck-mounted light-artillery as well as motorbike assault units?) mobile small-units (company-size: 100+ men) carrying out night-time mobile (ie not tied to one location but circulating/rotating around several areas) warfare operations (e.g. over-running regime positions in raids/ambushes, taking all captured equipment and then withdrawing and then keep repeating this over and over again: just like Jaish Al-Islam do in Damascus) as the area of Hama (in particular eastern Hama) is ideal (ie can hide/conceal in and ambush from the desert) for this type of warfare.
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    2) “Russian military advisers with Regime officers in the northern area of battle with a RB-341V communications jamming vehicle.” – CombatChris1
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    If only rebels used swarms (groups of 2 or 3?) of armed drones (modified to carry 2 or 3 shells instead of just 1) on the same battlefield to hammer such types of vehicles or a battery of hunter-tracker ATGM units to target them.
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    3) “Free Idlib Army shelling with heavy artillery pro-Assad on Mount Zin Al-Abdeen, reporting direct hits” –
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    Are rebels using drones to guide their shelling though? They’d get more direct hits if they did.
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    #Observation: It should be pointed out that when defending a position that could be easily encircled it’s not enough for the defender to dig multi-layer trenches around that position but, as this video (see below link) by this instructor at US army war college shows, shows from 39:00mins to 42:00mins of the below video lecture the importance of tanks (in combination with infantry?) being used in large enough numbers near the flanks of trenches to organise break-out/counter-offensives when unexpectedly isolated by enemy offensives.
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    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14LMmBsDw-g
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    In rebel counter-offensives the aim should always be for rebel units to quickly pin-down then surround and trap regime units far more quickly then regime troops can do to rebels as this is the quickest way to inflict higher rates of attrition (ie loss of regime troops and equipment) on the regime and it’s irrelevant whether it’s done through IEDs/ATGMs/rocket-shelling so as long rebels can pin-them down and encircle quicker.
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    Another interesting fact from the above video link: From minutes 44-45 of that video lecture the US war college lecturer mentions that the Ukrainians military were able to absorb Russian thermobaric strikes by buying/getting shipping containers, placing them in trenches and then covering them with deep layers of soil. How many earth-movers and metal containers do rebels in Hama/Aleppo/Idlib have? Because it’d allow rebels to hold onto territory regardless how many incendiary shells the Russians drop on rebels.

  2. #International: “Algerian army expels Syrian refugees to Morocco which then bars them from entering. Leaving them stranded in the desert to starve.” – RamiSafadi93
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    The mukhabarat of every Arab country are all conspiring brothers, they plot with each other in order to subdue and victimise each other’s populace so the rule in their country can never be challenged inside or from the outside.
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    #Hama: “Rebels besieging 0 pro-regime civilians while pro-#Assad forces besieging 100.000s of pro-rebel civilians. Rebels have no leverage.” – worldonalert
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    Exactly, why Mhaardeh dam never got sustain shelling by rebels is beyond, it’d easily flush-out (literally) Hezbollah fighters in that town and why not when Russian jets target rebel units and hospitals with thermobaric weapons. The biggest open goal that rebels can target is regime infrastructure which the rebels still can as long as they don’t allow regime units to move north across the Orontes river.
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    #Observation: It’s good that rebels in Hama are holding out but rebels in Hama may lose everything unless: A) Sort out (ie logically think through) their strategy side. B) Appoint a general military commander to implement (including disciplinary powers?) operationally (e.g. tactics that’s are going to be used, the areas to be targeted and by what deadline) that strategy. C) Appoint a general military secretary to provide resources (e.g. by pooling all captured booty into a depot and then having the means to fairly distribute ammo/tanks/artillery/ATGMs captured EQUALLY to all participating rebel factions, making sure gas-masks are created/distributed before an offensive) to assist that general military commander.
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  3. What trick has been used here to make rebels change sides?
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    ” Qalaat Al Mudiq‏ @QalaatAlMudiq 38m38 minutes ago
    Replying to @QalaatAlMudiq

    E. #Damascus: reports Regime sent reinforcements made up of ex-Rebels from #WadiBarada (now “reconciled”) to fight on #Qabun fronts.”

  4. For the people interested in turkish politics, there is an ongoing internal war in the turkish pro-akp media between the pelican-ers and other islamist groups attacked by them.

    The crisis escalated when Djem Kuchuk, one of the hawks of the pelicaners, in a TV program called the Mavi Marmara passengers maniac types and said that AKP\Erdogan should separate its way with these radical islamists and mend relations with the US\West\Israel. Kuchuk is not only against pro-Iran\anti israel IHH NGO (the organizer of Mavi Marmara expedition), he is against pro-HTS\anti Iran Haksoz group too. My observation, in the past Israel had Gulenists to attack IHH it seems it has pelicaners now.

    Pelican group became famous when they published pelican file. The pelican file consisted of accusations against Ahmad Davutoglu about him being disloyal to erdogan. 4 days after that Davutoglu had to resign and left his position to Yildirim.

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