Russian officers in northwest Hama Province, northwest Syria, coordinating defense with Assad regime counterparts of the town of Kernaz

UPDATE, 1115 GMT: Abdel Bassel Sarout — one of the leading figures in the uprising against the Assad regime in Homs — has been killed in the rebel counter-attack.

A former member of Syria’s under-20 football team, he was prominent in protests, singing, and leading chants before organizing local men to take up arms.

In 2016, EA published an hour-long interview with Sarout about the Homs uprising, his decision to fight, and the battle to clear his name over charges that he supported the Islamic State.

Syria Feature: Hope and Tragedy of an Uprising — An Interview with Abdel Basset Sarout

Battles continue in northwest Syria amid a rebel counter-attack that further checked a Russia-regime offensive.

Heavy casualties were claimed on both sides in northwest Hama, where rebels and the Islamist bloc Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham launched operations on Thursday.

The regime military acknowledged that it lost more than 30 troops on Thursday alone. But the Russian “Center for Reconciliation” — which often puts out propaganda and disinformation — said more than 120 of at least 500 attackers were slain.

Maj. Gen. Viktor Kupchisin also asserted that five tanks, three infantry fighting vehicles, nine off-road vehicles, and a multiple-launch rocket system were destroyed.

There were conflicting claims over changes in territory. The regime military said most losses had been regained, with pro-Assad blogs cheering “Jihadist Corpses Fill the Battlefield“, but rebels said they maintained most of their advance.

Pro-Assad sites said on Saturday that the regime had reclaimed Kafr Houd but failed to take the key hilltop town of Tal Maleh or the village of Jibeen.

The fighting is near the town of Kafr Naboudeh, taken by regime forces — enabled by Russian airstrikes and ground advisors and paramilitaries — early in the offensive that began May 6. The regime is trying to hold the town of Kernaz to the south.

A report from the frontline near the hilltop town of Tal Maleh:

The Russian-regime offensive, shattering a demilitarized zone declared by Moscow and Turkey last September, initially seized several towns in northwest Hama Province. However, it was soon held up by the counter-attacks.

Bombing in Idlib

Meanwhile, Russia and the regime continue to bomb civilian areas in Idlib Province. White Helmets civil defense said two people were killed, and nine others injured in Babulin village.

White Helmets rescue victim of pro-Assad bombing of Babulin in northwest Syria, June 7, 2019

Idlib and northern Hama are home to about 3 million people — about 20% of Syria’s remaining population.

Since April 28, about 300 civilians have been killed by Russian-regime bombardment. Hundreds more have been wounded and more displaced, bringing the total to more than 300,000. Almost 30 medical facilities have been destroyed or damaged.