MESOP NEWS UPDATE SYRIA : Rebels Advance in Damascus, Open Hama Front

March 22  By Scott Lucas – eawolrdview – Anti-Assad forces test regime by opening two-front war — is a third front on the way?

UPDATE 0730 GMT: Local sources say rebels have captured the village of Khattab, and nearby ammunition dumps, in northern Hama Province.The sources say rebels have pressed farther to the west, near the village of al-Sheer (see map). Part of the road between Hama city and Mahardeh to the northwest is under rebel control.The Free Syrian Army said another two tanks were captured when a checkpoint was seized.

Syria’s rebels advanced in their offensive inside Damascus and opened another front in northern Hama Province on Tuesday.

A coalition of rebel forces, led by Faylaq al-Rahman and Ahrar al-Sham, took more territory in Jobar in the northeast of the capital on the third day of their attacks. They reached and held Abbassiyeen Square, the Fares Khoury road leading to it, and the bus garage.

The advance knocked back the Assad regime’s attempts on Monday to reclaim territory after the initial gains by the rebels.Meanwhile, the anti-Assad forces tested the stretched regime army and its allies further by launching an offensive in northern Hama in western Syria, making dramatic gains within hours.The forces, including the Free Syrian Army’s Jaish al-Nasr and the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham bloc, launched the assault with a suicide vehicle bomb in Souran. They quickly took the town and advanced south, reportedly capturing the village of Ma’ardas. Other villages such as Khattab are under threat.Rebels had claimed a series of towns and villages, including Souran and Ma’ardas, in their last successes in Syria between August and October 2016. However, they lost much of the territory in the next month, as the pro-Assad forces — with Iranian and Iranian-led forces, Hezbollah fighters, and Russian airstrikes — advanced in northwest Syria, including the occupation of all of Aleppo city.

Last autumn’s rebel offensive advanced to within 6 km (3.5 miles) of Hama, Syria’s fourth-largest city, and some local observers said on Tuesday that the city might be under threat unless Iranian forces blocked the assault.