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Syrian army fights to restore rebel-held areas in Hama

SYRIA-HAMA-ARMY-REBEL-HELD AREAS-CONTROL-REGAINING

Syrian military personnel are seen in the recently recaptured town of Kafr Houd in the northern countryside of Hama, Syria, June 9, 2019. Syrian army is regaining control over areas that fell to the rebels in an attack which started three days ago, a military source told Xinhua on Sunday. (Xinhua)

HAMA, Syria, June 9 (Xinhua) -- Syrian army is regaining control over areas that fell to the rebels in an attack which started three days ago, a military source told Xinhua on Sunday.

The Syrian officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, made the remarks from the town of Kafr Houd, which was captured by the army twice within days.

The officer said that the army recaptured Kafr Houd and is moving forward to retake more towns that fell to the rebels since Friday.

"We are in the northern countryside of Hama in the village of Kafr Houd and we are heading to the towns of Tal Balah, Jalameh, and Jubain," he said.

"Our forces are advancing toward Tal Balah and Jubain to restore all areas that have been taken by the rebels over the past three days and the field situation is perfect," he added.

The officer said that the army is also moving to secure the road between the town of Mhardeh and Sqailbiyeh after it got closed as a result of the recent rebels' attack.

The road is strategic for the Syrian army as it constitutes a supply route for the Syrian army units in the area.

"Now, we are working to open the road between the town of Mhardeh and Sqailbiyeh ... and our forces are great and we are moving forward to restore the violated areas," the officer said.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Ibrahim, head of the Kafr Houd town, told Xinhua that people who fled when the town fell to the rebels started returning.

"With the efforts of the Syrian army, people have returned to the town of Kafr Houd and now they are in their homes despite the fact that many of the houses have been damaged as a result of the rebels' mortar shells," he said.

Ibrahim, however, said that fire broke out in farmlands and people couldn't put the fire down "but we thank the Syrian army for capturing the town again."

Earlier in the day, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that battles continued to rage in the central province of Hama on Sunday between the Syrian army and the rebel groups amid progress of the Syrian army.

The battles, which have been raging since late April, continued to flare up in the northern countryside of Hama province between an array of rebel groups and the Syrian army, the observatory said.

The Britain-based watchdog group said that the army managed to capture a town in northern Hama on Sunday with the backing of ground shelling and airstrikes.

This comes as the rebels have unleashed a counter-offensive on Friday on the Syrian sites in northern Hama, killing nine soldiers on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the observatory said that over the past three days of battles, a total of 126 government forces and 102 rebels were killed in three towns.

Areas of the countryside of Hama, Idlib and the Aleppo provinces are included in a de-escalation zones' deal established in September 2018 by Russia and Turkey.

The deal didn't materialize as battles have escalated since late April.

[ Editor: Zhang Zhou ]