Fort Russ - 6th January, 2016
Moments ago, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) recaptured the village of Tell Mantana and the Ma’an-Ashtan checkpoint in northern Hama after a surprise offensive was launched from the SAA stronghold of Ma’an.
Meanwhile, local Islamist militants loyal to Jund al-Aqsa (an al-Qaeda affiliated rebel group) have hastily retreated to the village of Ashtan.
Heavy clashes are reportedly ongoing in the area.
In early November 2015, government troops were forced to retreat from the strategic town of Morek – in fact, the seasoned 555th Brigade was entirely re-stationed to Khannaser to combat ISIS fighters who had cut the government supply line to Aleppo.
Simultaneously, Islamist rebels of Jaish al-Fateh and Jund al-Aqsa launched an offensive in northern Hama which had them seize control of Morek whilst securing a buffer zone around the town.
Strategically, the SAA is now set to launch a wide-scale offensive towards southern Idlib. Meanwhile, government troops at both flanks of Idlib, in Lattakia and southern Aleppo respectively, have made huge gains over the past months. Thereby, Jaish al-Fatah now has itself exposed along 3 fronts in Idlib.