A group of Islamist Syrian rebels, led by Jund al-Aqsa, pushed their way into the Hama Province in western Syria earlier this week, and are now making major gains around the province, nearing the provincial capital of Hama, a city of over 300,000 people.
Along with the Christian town of Halfaya, the rebels have seized at least 14 villages in the area, and are now reporting that they are only around 10km away from the Hama Airport, threatening to secure one of the biggest gains against the Syrian military anywhere in months.
While the troops on the ground are struggling mightily to hold their ground, Syria is increasingly relying on warplanes to pound the rebels, hoping to at least slow their march into more contested areas. The rebels reported five of their fighters, including two commanders, have been killed, while the Syrian military claimed “tens” of rebels killed in the strikes.
The area in northern Hama is overwhelmingly populated by religious minorities, including Christians and Alawites. The Jund al-Aqsa has been very open about wanting to inflict major harm on the Alawite population of Syria as revenge for the government’s airstrikes against Sunni areas.
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