Opposition makes fresh gains in Syria’s Hama province

– Syria’s anti-regime opposition now stands only 15 kilometers from Hama city

Over the past 48 hours, armed opposition groups have captured a number of villages and strategic checkpoints in Syria’s western Hama province, an opposition source said Friday, reported Anadolu Agency.

Abu Majid, an opposition commander, told Anadolu Agency that the Free Syrian Army and the Jaish al-Fatah militant group had wrested control of eight villages and five checkpoints from Assad regime forces.

Last month, armed opposition groups registered gains in Hama’s northern countryside, capturing Suran city, the towns of Halfaya and Taybat al-Imam, and a number of regime-held checkpoints.

Fresh military gains in western Syria have brought opposition forces roughly 15 kilometers from Hama city, which contains a strategic military airport.

Syria has been locked in a devastating civil war since 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests — which had erupted as part of that year’s “Arab Spring” uprisings — with unexpected ferocity.

The Syrian Center for Policy Research, a Beirut-based NGO, has put the total death toll from the five-year conflict at more than 470,000.