29 Aug 2016 – by Scott Luvas – eawolrdview –  The Jund al-Aqsa faction and pro-rebel activists say Helfaya, northwest of Hama city, has been captured. The advance is considered significant since — unlike most areas of northern Hama Province — Helfaya is populated by many regime supporters and many of its men fight in pro-Assad units.  Pro-opposition activists say the supporters were moved into Helfaya after many residents were forced to flee across the Orontes River in May 2013:

ORIGINAL ENTRY: Rebels have launched an offensive in northern Hama Province in western Syria, hoping to extend their success this month in attacks near Aleppo city.

The offensive began overnight with the seizure of four checkpoints. The initial frontline for the offensive was reportedly about 21 km (13 miles) from Hama Airbase, which rebels are shelling with howitzers.

By early afternoon, rebels had taken four villages — Zalaqiat, al-Masasnah, al-Buwaydah (see map), and Zileen — and were inside the village of Helfaya, northwest of Hama city (see map), taking the hospital. Fourteen checkpoints have been overrun. One T-72 tank, one anti-tank missile base, and heavy weapons have been destroyed, and two tanks and two BMP armored vehicles have been captured. A pro-Assad site has acknowledged “large gains” for the rebels.

The offensive has been anticipated since the Jaish al-Fatah rebel bloc took the initiative in late July with their assaults southwest of Aleppo — a successful operation would cut regime supply routes to the Aleppo frontline.