March 19, 2015
By Osama Abu Zeid and Brent Eng
AMMAN: Jabhat a-Nusra reportedly won control of two villages and an air base from regime forces in east Hama province on Wednesday as part of a joint effort with Free Syrian Army brigades to break the blockade entrapping rebels in north Homs.
The villages and the base sit next to the regime’s cordon, which stretches east to west across northern Homs province. It has effectively entrapped opposition forces, including Jabhat a-Nusra and FSA-affiliated battalions, in a number of rebel-held towns in the area.
“Jihadists liberated the town of Kafat in the east Hama countryside and the Zur a-Sous air defense base, the beginning of a martyrdom operation across east Hama,” Abu Abdu a-Shami, a spokesman for Jabhat a-Nusra, said over Twitter on Thursday. Nusra also captured the Zur a-Sous village, adjacent to the base.
As Nusra applies pressure to the regime blockade from the north, its ally, the FSA, led by Feilaq Homs, is attacking the blockade from the south near the town of Taqsis, announced the official Feilaq Homs Facebook page.
Regime-affiliated radio channel Sham FM confirmed Wednesday’s attack, reporting that two suicide bombs targeted the bridge and checkpoints outside of Kafat, but that the outcome of the battle had not been determined yet.
“The fighting continues in the area around the town,” Sham FM reported on Wednesday.
In addition to taking the towns, Nusra also cut off the nearby highway—located several hundred meters away from Kafat—between Hama city and the pro-regime Ismaili-majority city of Selmiya in east Hama province, the spokesperson for the Media Institution in Hama, a local pro-opposition news agency, told Syria Direct on Thursday.
Selmiya is crucial for the Syrian government because it is located on the alternative government route feeding supplies between Hama and Homs. The main road between the two regime-held cities is currently blocked by rebels.
In severing the road between Hama and Selmiya, rebels threaten to further isolate the cities of Hama and Homs.