Syrian regime warplanes have allegedly bombed areas in west-central Hama province in response to an offensive mounted by the rebels on Thursday, 1 September.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the rebel offensive launched on 30 August in Hama was the biggest co-ordinated effort since 2014. "They [rebel forces] are about 10 kilometres [six miles] from the airport" Observatory's Rami Abdel Rahman said.

On Wednesday (31 August), at least 25 people, including six children were killed over night in regime air strikes, the monitoring group added. Syria's state media, however, said that the air force conducted "concentrated air strikes" against terrorist gatherings, killing several of them.

According to Reuters, the rebel offensive in Hama poses a new challenge to President Bashar al-Assad and his allies. One of the officials from a rebel group, Jaish-al-Nasr told Reuters that both Syrian and Russian jets were involved in heavy air strikes.

The rebel factions involved in the offensive include Jund-al-Aqsa and other groups fighting under the Free Syrian Army (FSA). One of the groups, Jaish-al-Nasr said in a statement that two commanders and three other soldiers were been killed in Hama.

Rebel forces are believed to have seized numerous villages and towns during the assault. If the rebels gained control over Hama province, or the north-south motorway it is situated on, they will most likely cut-off a major government supply line, the BBC reported.

Ahmed al-Ahmed, a local activist told Associated Press that government forces around Hama might have weakened because of the decision to deploy more of them in embattled Aleppo city.

Meanwhile, humanitarian adviser to UN special envoy to Syria, Staffan De Mistura has said a 48-hour humanitarian pause in Aleppo was needed urgently so that food and other supplies could be delivered to those in need.

Jan Egeland said, "We were informed today (1 September) that there are now 4,000 food rations left, that would be enough for 20,000 people and the population of east Aleppo is a quarter of a million."

Syrian rebels
Rebel fighters from the hardline jihadist Jund al-Aqsa ride on a motorbike in Taybat al Imam town after they advanced in the town in Hama province, Syria August 31, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah