Fri 19 Jul 2019

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Without a Fight: Opposition Factions Withdraw From Four Areas in Hama Countryside

Assad forces soldier on the battlefronts in the Latakia countryside - (Sputnik)

Assad forces soldier on the battlefronts in the Latakia countryside - (Sputnik)

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Opposition factions withdrew from four areas in the Hama countryside, allowing the entry of Assad forces which began military activities in the area three days ago – with Russian air support.

These areas are: Qalaat al-Madiq on the eastern side of Al-Ghab Plain in the northwestern Hama countryside, as well as Al-Karkat, Tal Hawash and Sheikh Idris.

Mohammad Rashid, a member of the National Front for Liberation (NFL) press office, said on Thursday that the withdrawal of the factions from the area, and the entry of the Assad forces, came as result of Qalaat al-Madiq being “already militarily lost.”

Speaking to Enab Baladi, Rashid added that Qalaat al-Madiq was bombarded by the Assad forces before they seized control of the town of Kafr Nabudah in the northwestern Hama countryside.

The correspondent for Enab Baladi in the countryside Idlib, quoting a military commander, reported that the withdrawal of factions from the Qalaat al-Madiq and the areas mentioned took place without a fight.

The correspondent also indicated the likelihood that Assad forces control the area of Shariah and Tuwainah, which are surrounded from every direction after the recent military developments.

The Syrian regime has not formally declared its control of the areas, while networks loyal to it such as As Suqaylabiyah Breaking, have confirmed regime control of the entirety of al-Madiq and al-Karakat area.

Qalaat al-Madiq is considered the gateway to Al-Ghab Plain, and the agricultural and commercial reservoir which other villages in Hama depend upon. It is one on the foothills of Mount Shashabo, which is an extension of the Jabal Zawiya northwest of the city of Hama.

The town of Qalaat al-Madiq is considered a southern crossing for the “liberated” Syrian north, comparable to Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey. It connects a transit point for travel routes which have been imposed by years of war, due to the sensitivity of dealing with the region as “demographically diverse”.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) is considered the strike force in Qalaat al-Madiq, after military action it launched earlier this year, through which it seized most of areas in northern Syria from the hands of the Free Syrian Army factions.

Over the past few years, Qalaat al-Madiq has been under the control of rebel factions, except for its medieval fortress located in the southern part of the area on a high hill. This remained the only point which served the Syrian regime, due to its altitude overlooking the plains, through which the regime conducts reconnaissance and monitoring.

Qalaat Al-Madiq also has a strategic position that grants it great military significance. It overlooks Al-Ghab Plain and al-Dawra Valley, as well as Khan Shaykhun and Tar al-Ula, and the slopes of As Suqaylabiyah plateau.

The recent developments come at a time when Russian aircraft and Syrian regime helicopters continue to strike the southern countryside of Idlib, and extending their operations to the northern and western countryside of Hama as well.

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