Rebels pose near a damaged tank after recapturing villages in the Hama countryside.
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Offensives by the Syrian army and its allies backed by Russian airstrikes are going more slowly than expected due to increased Saudi support to rebels, senior sources close to the Syrian government said, as the insurgents pressed a counterattack Friday. Ahrar al-Sham and allied rebels overran Atshan and nearby villages in the morning and, despite Russian air support, the army was unable to push them back, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and rebels said. In a frank assessment of the situation facing the government side, the two senior sources – neither of them Syrian – said the course of battle had been slowed by more military support to the rebels from Saudi Arabia, which is vying for influence with Iran across the Middle East and wants Assad gone from power.They cited increased supplies of anti-tank TOW missiles to the rebels as a big factor.Fares al-Bayoush, an officer in the Syrian army before he defected to the rebellion against Assad, told Reuters his group destroyed a tank with a TOW missile in Atshan Thursday, although he denied there had been any increase in military support.
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