Heaviest clashes for months hit Syria’s Hama province — monitor

Author: ReutersFri, 2017-08-04 23:00ID: 1501866046638812800
BEIRUT: The heaviest fighting and shelling for months hit Hama province in northern Syria on Friday, a war monitor said, but there were diverging accounts of how the battle started.
The clashes were accompanied by heavy bombardment, with dozens of shells and rockets being fired, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, adding that it had confirmed there had been casualties.
The battle is around the village of Maan, 23 km (15 miles) north of Hama in western Syria, near the location of a rebel assault and government counter-offensive this spring.
The Observatory said the fighting arose from an attempt by pro-government forces to advance north from Maan into rebel territory.
A military media unit run by the government’s ally Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite group, said it was rebels who tried to attack, but were thwarted by the Syrian army.
Hard-line Islamist groups, including the Tahrir Al-Sham alliance which contains Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian affiliate, are present in the area.
The war front in northern Hama province has mostly been quiet since a de-escalation process, brokered by the government’s ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey took effect in early May.
The Syrian army’s main focus since May has been its campaign in the east of the country against Daesh.
On Thursday, thousands of Syrian refugees were bussed out of the restive border area between Lebanon and Syria as part of a ceasefire deal between Lebanon’s Shiite movement Hezbollah and fighters from Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian branch.
In exchange, Islamist groups released two Hezbollah fighters, who arrived in Red Crescent vehicles in the area of Al-Saan in central Hama province.
Main category: Middle-EastTags: HezbollahSyriaHama provinceTahrir Al-Shamrelated_nodes: Hezbollah, militant group exchange bodies of 14 killed in Arsal fightingLebanese PM declares Hezbollah battles in Arsal illegitimateHezbollah wages multi-pronged attack on militants at Syrian border — media unit

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