Syria’s army declared a victory against insurgents last week when it pushed back their advance towards pro-government towns in the west of the country. But a month earlier the strategic area did not even appear at risk.

The campaign near Hama against al Qaeda-linked fighters and other groups shows how the Syrian military can quickly redeploy its forces to push back enemies using its superior fire power. But it also shows how the army is spread thinly in Syria, leaving at risk even areas of vital importance to the government.

The fighting near Hama, 200 km (125 miles) north of Damascus, is not over: rebels on Wednesday took back two villages captured by the government a day earlier, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the war, reported. […]