Rebels launch new offensive in northern Hama countryside against the Syrian government

By Naveed Malekafzali (Twitter)

Hama - After nearly half a year of silence alongside the frontlines of the rebels and the Syrian government in northern Syria, Hayat Tahrir ash-Sham (HTS) and the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) have launched an offensive in the northern Hama countryside.

The offensive began at 9 AM this morning with HTS/TIP fighters attacking positions just northwest of the village of Ma'an, near Ti'an. Government forces were able to quickly repel said attack within the hour. In response to these attacks, Russian and Syrian Air Force planes began airstrikes on rebel-held villages near the frontlines, with airstrikes hitting the villages of Murak and al-Lataminah in Hama. Multiple airstrikes and cluster bombs also hit multiple towns in Idlib, hospitals being specifically targeted in al-Tamani'ah, Kafr Nabl, and Khan Shaykhun, the site of this year's chemical attack that sparked US President Trump's bombing of the Syrian government's Shayrat Airbase. Four people have thus far been confirmed killed in the bombing, with two injured., though the numbers are expected to rise.

After the round of airstrikes, HTS renewed their offensive on Ma'an with an SVBIED strike on their positions at the northern entrance of the village, killing and wounding many government fighters. While pro-government outlets reported that the attack had been repelled within the hour, pro-rebel activists reported that Ma'an itself had captured by the rebels. No pictures or video has been released from Ma'an as of yet so these reports could not be verified.

Following this attack, rebels were able to capture the village of Wadi Ma'arran, west of Ma'an, where they burned pictures of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well as the flag of the ruling government as they overran government forces' positions.

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Syrian Army crosses Euphrates River

By Naveed Malekafzali (Twitter)

Deir ez-Zor - The Syrian Army, following the breaking of the siege of the provincial capital city, has crossed the Euphrates River and taken territory on the other banks from ISIS forces. At the time of this report, it has been confirmed with news footage via Russia's state media network Russia 24 that the Syrian Army has crossed one branch of the Euphrates onto Sakr Island. The military is confirmed to have taken the eastern half of the island, and heavy clashes to take the western half of the island are ongoing.

Sakr Island, where the SAA first entered after crossing the Euphrates, is an island contained within the Euphrates River and part of Deir ez-Zor City proper, was considered at one point one of the army's strongest defense points. The island was swiftly taken by ISIS fighters in May 2015 at a speed that surprised many. The organization commemorated the taking of the island with a video entitled "Sakr Island, Taken by Allah's Bounty".

An ISIS fighter speaks in the video, "Sakr Island, Taken by Allah's Bounty", released by Wilayat Khayr's media office on May 15, 2015 following the group's taking of the island.

An ISIS fighter speaks in the video, "Sakr Island, Taken by Allah's Bounty", released by Wilayat Khayr's media office on May 15, 2015 following the group's taking of the island.

Unconfirmed reports, with no pictures having been released, have also said that government forces have also crossed the main branch of the Euphrates into northern Deir ez-Zor province and captured at least two villages, Madhlum and Marat having been named. If the unconfirmed reports are verified, this would mean that the SAA has crossed the US/SDF-set de-confliction line set as the Euphrates River. The SDF has said they are willing to fight government forces if necessary if they cross the Euphrates.

Government forces crossing the Euphrates has long been the pivotal goal of the Syrian government in the civil war, having had their territorial control pushed south of the river very early on in the conflict. The Syrian Army had reached the Euphrates River in Aleppo province in March of this year, but were prevented from crossing to capture further territory on the eastern bank due to SDF presence.

Explosion rocks government-held T4 Airbase in Homs

By Naveed Malekafzali (Twitter)

Homs - An explosion in an ammunition depot rocked the government-held Tiyas Airbase, otherwise known as T4, in Tiyas, Homs, the largest airport in Syria. The ammunition depot explosion was reported to have occurred just after midnight at the airbase.The T4 airbase is located just over ninety kilometers west of the capital city of the province, far in the desert countryside.

No government troop casualties have been reported as of yet, but information is still coming in as of the writing of the report. Initial reports pinned the explosion as being the handiwork of a newly created "Mu'tah Islamic Movement", but it was later found that the reports were false, including the entire group's existence being a fabrication. No rebel group has officially taken responsibility for the explosion at this time. The explosion has been blamed by some on the inside temperature of the depot itself, though this has yet to be verified.

Undated satellite image of the T4 Airbase in the countryside of Homs.

Undated satellite image of the T4 Airbase in the countryside of Homs.

The T4 Airbase has never come under the control of any opposition group, but came extremely close to being overrun by ISIS forces during the 4th Palmyra Offensive of December 2016, when the organization's fighters came within a kilometer's distance of besieging the airport itself after almost entirely the surrounding the base, save for the western flank.

Coalition threatens to bomb Government convoy evacuating ISIS fighters to Abu Kamal

By Naveed Malekafzali (Twitter)

Qalamun Mountains - Coalition airstrikes from US bombers have bombed a road and destroyed a bridge at an undisclosed location along the route that a Lebanese/Syrian government convoy carrying evacuated ISIS fighters is taking to Abu Kamal, a small town in Dayr az-Zawr Province on the border of Syria and Iraq. The US had originally threatened to bomb the convoy itself before cratering the road the buses were taking, a threat that still remains.

ISIS fighters evacuated from the Qalamun mountains begin their journey to Abu Kamal on a government convoy, driven by a civilian driver.

ISIS fighters evacuated from the Qalamun mountains begin their journey to Abu Kamal on a government convoy, driven by a civilian driver.

ISIS and HTS had been embroiled in a Hezbollah/Lebanese Army offensive alongside the Lebanese border mountain range for the past two months. HTS, in the latest of many deals with the Syrian government to avoid fighting to the last man, had their fighters transferred to Idlib in early August. ISIS, in a move that surprised analysts, also accepted a deal brokered by both the Lebanese and Syrian governments to be transferred out of their border pocket to ISIS territory in eastern Syria. This is the first time ISIS has ever accepted a deal from any government they have been battling, having infamously rejected even negotiating with other Salafist Islamist groups in Syria or Libya.

Despite the US also currently bombing HTS, albeit in a far smaller and infrequent capacity, no such threat to bomb convoys carrying their fighters in the past has ever been made by the US government or any other Coalition country.

There are currently estimated to be 600 ISIS fighters, alongside their families, on the convoy in transit. Because of the presence of women and children on the buses, there have been concerns raised that bombing the convoy with airstrikes could constitute a war crime.

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