Rebels, al-Qaida ad­vance on regime in north­west Syria: mon­i­tor

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

A rebel al­liance in­clud­ing alQaida’s Al-Nusra Front seized more ter­ri­tory in north­west­ern Syria overnight, strength­en­ing its po­si­tion on the bor­ders of two key largely regime- con­trolled prov­inces, a mon­i­tor said Satur­day.

The Army of Con­quest rebel al­liance had made a se­ries of sweep­ing gains in Idlib prov­ince, said the Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights, a UK-based mon­i­tor.

Rebels seized a ma­jor army posi- tion, the town of Muham­bel, and sev­eral vil­lages in the area be­tween Jisr al-Shughur and Ariha, two key towns al­ready un­der op­po­si­tion con­trol.

The 24 hours of fight­ing left 13 op­po­si­tion fighters dead along with 32 regime forces, the Ob­ser­va­tory said.

The ad­vance ce­ments their con­trol over that part of the prov­ince, al­most en­tirely lost by the gov­ern­ment, but also al­lows the group­ing to re­in­force its po­si­tions on the edges of Latakia and Hama prov­inces.

They are l argely regime­con­trolled, and coastal Latakia in par­tic­u­lar is a gov­ern­ment bas­tion and home to Pres­i­dent Bashar alAs­sad’s an­ces­tral vil­lage.

Al-Nusra touted the ad­vances in Idlib on Twit­ter, list­ing the “lib­er­a­tion” of sev­eral vil­lages and army po­si­tions.

State me­dia ef­fec­tively ac­knowl­edged the losses, quot­ing a mil­i­tary source as say­ing “the army evac­u­ated sev­eral mil­i­tary sites around the town of Muham­bel in Idlib prov­ince.”

“They re­lo­cated to new po­si­tions and lines more suit­able for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of sub­se­quent com­bat mis­sions,” of­fi­cial news agency SANA said.

Regime forces have lost con­trol of nearly all of Idlib prov­ince since the Army of Con­quest seized the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal at the end of March.

In re­cent weeks, an­a­lysts and ob­servers have said the regime is ready to ac­cept the de facto par­ti­tion of Syria and is con­cen­trat­ing on hold­ing the ar­eas it con­sid­ers key and re­treat­ing else­where.

Else­where, the Ob­ser­va­tory said nine peo­ple were killed — among them two chil­dren — in rebel rocket fire on the city of Aleppo.

The group said the rock­ets hit the Ashrafiyeh dis­trict in the west­ern, gov­ern­ment-con­trolled part of the city.

More than 220,000 peo­ple have been killed in Syria since the con­flict be­gan in March 2011 with antigov­ern­ment protests that were met with a regime crack­down.

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