Hama offensive (September 2017)
The Hama offensive (September 2017), code-named Oh Servants of God, Be Steadfast, was a military offensive launched by rebel groups led by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) north of the city Hama, as part of the Syrian Civil War.
In March 2017, rebels led by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham launched an unsuccessful offensive against the Syrian Armed Forces north of Hama. Although they achieved territorial gains in the first month of the offensive, occupying more than double the territory, after seven days, a counter-offensive was launched by government forces and their allies, recapturing territory. By April, government forces fully expelled the rebels from the initial position of the offensive.
A Russian military police platoon (29 servicemen) deployed as part of the de-escalation observation forces in the Idlib de-escalation zone was on the night of 18 September encircled and trapped by rebels, including Jabhat al-Nusra, as a result of their offensive against the Syrian troops positioned north and northeast of Hama; the encirclement was breached by Russian forces several hours later by the early hours of 19 September in a special operation leaving three servicemen of the Special Operations Forces were wounded in the rescue operation. The Russian ministry stated that according to their intelligence, the rebels′ ″offensive was initiated by the US special agencies in order to stop the successful advance of the Syrian Arab Army to the east from Deir ez-Zor″.
Tahrir al-Sham-led attack
On 19 September, members of Tahrir al-Sham, alongside the TIP and militants aligned to the FSA, launched an offensive on pro-government and Russian Armed Forces positions overseeing the process of the de-escalation of the zone in the province of Idlib following an agreement with Turkey and Iran in negotiations in Astana in May 2017. Reports of the ensuing fighting were contradictory. The rebels initially captured four villages, but after back-and-forth fighting during which the villages changed hands several times, government forces recaptured all of the villages by 22 September. Russia stated it had killed 850 rebel fighters by 21 September. In contrast, SOHR reported that 66 rebels and 38 soldiers were killed during the offensive, as well as more than 40 civilians over two days in nearly 500 air-strikes on about 40 towns and villages in retaliation for the rebel offensive. There were also rebel claims of government and Russian airstrikes on civilian targets in Idlib, including medical facilities. The Russian Air Force and Russian Navy conducted air and cruise missile strikes against HTS targets, reportedly including a large military camp. The US State Department accused Syria and Russia, besides bombing civilian targets, of also targeting medical facilities. One of the three allegedly bombed hospitals was the al-Rahma clinic in Khan Shaykhun, which treated victims of the chemical attack there in April.
Syrian Army counter-attack and air-strikes
On 23 September, Russian air-strikes targeted rebels in Idlib and Hama governorates, including a Faylaq al-Sham headquarters in the area of Tal Mardiqh in Idlib province, killing more than 50 rebels. There were multiple other Russian airstrikes in Hama and Idlib, including on Khan Sheikhoun, Jisr al-Shaqour, Saraqeb and Kafr Sajna. Around 40 people were reported killed in airstrikes on 24 September.
Concurrently, the Syrian Arab Army launched a counter-offensive in the northern part of the Hama, capturing two villages. However, a strong rebel counter-attack in the evening forced government troops to retreat. The next morning, government forces once again attacked the villages, supported by Russian combat helicopters. On 25 September, the Army made a new attempt to capture the two villages. However, two days later, government forces withdrew from their positions around the villages.
Airstrikes by the government and its allies continued over the following days. On 25 September, Syria Civil Defence claimed that airstrikes resulted in over 40 deaths in Idlib. On 26 September, there were reports of a fifth hospital in rebel territory targeted, the Sham 4 hospital in Kafr Nabl, Idlib. On 27 September, another 43 deaths were reported in towns in Idlib, including Khan Shaykhun and Jisr al-Shughur, as a result of the campaign. On the same day, Russian Defense Ministry's spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov stated that 5 HTS commanders and 32 militants were killed in a special operation executed by the Russian SOF in coordination with the Russian Air Force which delivered a surgical missile strike on the location of the meeting attended by the HTS field commanders south of Idlib. The commanders were believed to be behind an attack on the group of Russian military police back on September 18. By 28 September, Syria Civial Defence had reported more than 152 civilian dead in the bombing campaign and that six hospitals had now been targeted, displacing urban residents into rural areas. The bombing campaign was halted on the night of 29 September.
On 6 October, HTS launched an attack northeast of Hama, capturing al-Msherfeh and several other nearby areas. However, the military recaptured most of the territory lost the next day, except al-Msherfeh and Tal Aswad. At least 12 rebels were killed in the fighting, as well as eight government soldiers. On 8 October, the rebels captured Abu Dali and Tal Maqta'a.
On 6 November, Tahrir al-Sham alongside Jaysh al-Izza, Jaysh al-Nasr and the Central Division began a large-scale offensive, capturing three villages in the northern countryside of Hama. However, one day later, one village was recaptured by the Syrian Arab Army after a full day of clashes against the rebels. During the morning of 8 November, a second village was recaptured.
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- RUSSIA CLAIMS TO KILL HUNDREDS OF MILITANTS IN ONE DAY AS U.S. BATTLE AGAINST ISIS NEARS END
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- Airstrikes target hospitals in Syria's Idlib province, CNN, 19 September 2017
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- Tens of fighters are still missing under the rubble caused by airstrikes which killed 22 fighters, SOHR, 23 September 2017
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- BREAKING: Syrian Army retreats from key towns in north Hama, Al-Masdar News
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- The death toll increases in Jisr Al-Shughur and the regime forces shell areas in Daraa Al-Balad, SOHR, 27 September 2017
- 5 warlords responsible for attack on Russian military police in September killed in Syria
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- Syrian Army reverses jihadist gains in northern Hama
- At least 12 fighters of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham and the factions were killed in the northern countryside of Hama
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- Regime forces renew attempts to regain what they lost northeast of Hama and the factions continue their offensive
- Ivan Sidorenko on Twitter
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- More than 140 raids by Russian planes target villages of the northern countryside of Hama since the hours of last night pave for advancement of the regime forces in the area