The Syrian army, backed by Russian air support, Iranian troops and Shi’ite Muslim militias, including the Lebanese Hezbollah, continue to advance against rebels in western Syria near the city of Hama, creating strategic gains in the area. Government forces managed to capture the town of Halfaya and nearby villages, taking back territory that rebels seized last year from forces loyal to President Bashar Assad. The recent gains are of vital importance, as they link the capital Damascus with the northern city of Aleppo.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitoring group, confirmed the reports, saying the army began advancing into areas near Halfaya when rebels withdrew on Sunday, following intense battles and air strikes. Even though the United States destroyed in its attack, two weeks ago, some 20 percent of Assad’s operational air force, increased Russian and Iranian support has allowed the Syrian government forces to rapidly advance against rebels and regain strategic territory, vital for the survival of the Assad regime in the face of mounting pressure from the West.