Victory Army appears to change tactics, scoring wins in northwest
The Victory Army rebel coalition took control of a number of villages and strategic hills from regime forces in the west Idlib and northwest Hama countryside on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported, in what a local correspondent calls a “different” tactic.
“While previous battles were limited to heavy firing of regime positions and then rapidly withdrawing [in what are known as hit-and-run operations], the Victory Army is now opening with firepower and then advancing in toward regime-controlled areas,” Ibrahim Shamali, a correspondent with the Umayya Media Center in Sahl al-Ghab told Syria Direct on Tuesday.
“These Victory Army operations are different.”
Combined rebel forces led by Jabhat a-Nusra took control of the Zayzoun dam and power plant in Hama’s plains region, known as Sahl al-Ghab, on the second day of a rebel offensive in the area on Tuesday. They also captured Hekme hill and Freika village, which the hill overlooks and which lies on a main regime supply route, the Hama Revolutionary Command Council Media Office reported.
Ahrar a-Sham rebels inside Sahl al-Ghab’s Freika village. Photo courtesy of Ali Adra.
Regime forces withdrew from most of their stations in the area as opposition fighters moved forward on Tuesday, Shamali said.
Opposition fighters captured towns and villages in Sahl al-Ghab on Monday, as well as Tel Awar village and Sheikh Elias hill in the Jisr a-Shughour countryside, Shaam News Network reported.
Sheikh Elias hill is the northernmost point of Sahl al-Ghab and overlooks a number of strategic points and regime supply roads, Shamali said.
Residents of regime-controlled villages fled the rebel advance on Tuesday, local media and activists reported, heading to the nearby Alawite mountains to the west.
The Sahl al-Ghab plains region in northwest Hama province separates regime positions in Latakia from opposition territory in Idlib and Hama. Vital supply routes run across it connecting regime forces in Idlib’s southern Jisr al-Shughour countryside to Latakia.
YPG-FSA cut off IS reinforcement point to Aleppo
Joint YPG-FSA forces, aided by international coalition airpower, captured the town Sarrin in Aleppo province from the Islamic State on Monday.
Located northeast of Aleppo city and northwest of A-Raqqa city, IS forces utilized Sarrin as a waypoint for reinforcements and supplies between their base in A-Raqqa and territory under their control in eastern and northern Aleppo province, according to the pro-opposition Al-Aan news website.
IS also used Sarrin as a launching point for attacks on YPG-controlled Kobani, located just 35km north of the town.
IS forces withdrew to the western bank of the Euphrates towards Tishrin Dam and Qalat Najm, reported pro-opposition Halab Today TV on YouTube, adding that Euphrates Volcano forces are engaging IS forces in the grain silo area just a few kilometers from IS-controlled Manbij in northeastern Aleppo province.
Sarrin’s capture concludes a month-long pitched battle between joint forces of the Euphrates Volcano campaign and IS. Reports on the ground said the Volcano forces were assisted by air cover from the coalition, but did not elaborate.