By Mohamed Misto
Syrian regime forces have reportedly retaken a number of positions captured earlier by armed opposition groups on the northern outskirts of the central city of Hama, with the support of the pro-regime National Defense Forces militia, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Russian airpower.
Local opposition sources told Anadolu Agency that regime forces had staged counter-attacks on several villages over the weekend -- including Lahaya, Maarqapah, Al-Bwaida, Al-Masasnah, Al-Zlakiat and Al-Jabeen -- only hours after their capture by armed opposition factions.
According to the same sources, intensive Russian bombardments of the above-mentioned villages had forced the speedy withdrawal of opposition forces.
Last Friday, several armed opposition factions (most notably the Jund al-Aqsa, the Nusra Front, the Ajnad al-Sham and the Failak al-Sham, along with factions of the Free Syrian Army) launched simultaneous attacks along several axes of Hama’s northern countryside.
They were able to establish temporary control over the above-mentioned villages after killing dozens of regime troops and destroying a number of regime vehicles, including tanks and armored troop carriers, according to spokesmen for the FSA’s "Army of Dignity".
The villages are considered the first line of defense for the cities of Soran, Taybato al-Imam and Mahrada, all of which are located on Hama’s northern outskirts.
The capture of these three cities, in turn, is seen as a necessary prerequisite for taking important military positions, including the Rahba Khattab barracks, Hama’s military airport and the main entrance to the city of Hama.