The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the National Defense Forces (NDF) deliberately pulled back from their forward operating positions in northern Hama, according to sources close to the SAA.
The measured retreat to more easily defensible checkpoints that defend the city set Al Qaeda and company up for a 200 km gain in under 48 hours.
Al Qaeda and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) captured 200 km of territory in 28 hours as the Syrian government forces of President Assad retreated to more easily defended positions in Hama.
Syrian military forces stationed at the front are beginning to receive and are awaiting more reinforcements from the newly liberated Deir Hafer. Specifically, the fiercely effective Tiger Special Forces. The impending offensive will try to force Al Qaeda and other rebel groups back on their heels. The Russian and Syrian Air Force (SAF) have been bombing nonstop from Idleb to North Hama in advance of the counter assault to weaken rebel defenses.
Likewise, Al Qaeda has not been without its supporters. The US-vetted FSA militia Jeish al Izz took part in the rebel offensive alongside the terrorist group. A new round of weaponry, courtesy of the Saudis, was said to have played a role in the assault on north Hama.
If the rebel forces were to take Hama it would send a strong signal that the war against the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad is far from over in Western Syria. More likely, the Hama Offensive will provoke a strong counterreaction from pro-Syrian government forces.
Rebels will, like after the failed attempt to take Aleppo by throwing the bulk of their forces to the front, find themselves facing a withering counterattack that seeks more than the recapture of lost positions, but a new campaign that drives rebels further away from Hama City into their Idleb strongholds.