Assad regime forces in northwest Hama Province, northwest Syria

The Russian-regime offensive in northwest Syria has made its first advance in two months.

Enabled by intense Russian airstrikes, regime forces finally captured the hilltop of Tal Malah in northwest Hama Province and then took the nearby village of Jibeen.

The May 6 offensive had failed on several occasions over 50 days to occupy the hilltop, needed to control the road between two regime-held towns. A local source and a rebel commander said fighters withdrew rather than take heavy losses from the Russian strikes.

Syrian State news agency SANA posted photos from the area and said operations against “terrorist organizations” continued. The blog Al Masdar, which relies on claims from the regime military, wrote of “more offensives” and “battles that were put on hold due to the militant capture of Tal Malah and Jibeen”.

The offensive captured several towns and villages in northwest Hama in its first two weeks, but stalled against the Turkish-backed National Liberation Front and the Islamist bloc Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. The anti-Assad forces counter-attacked in June, recovering some of the territory such as Tal Malah and Jibeen, and have carried out further raids taking weapons and inflicting casualties on regime troops.

Meanwhile, Russia and regime bombardment of northern Hama and neighboring Idlib Province — shattering a demilitarized zone declared by Russia and Turkey last September — have killed more than 700 civilians and wounded more than 2,200 people. At least 330,000 of Idlib and northern Hama Province’s 3 million population — about 20% of those remaining in Syria — have been displaced.

In the last two weeks, more than 120 people have been killed, including many women and children and several rescuers and medics.

Syria Daily, July 28: Regime Attacks Kill 11 Civilians in Idlib; 3 Medics Slain in Hama