Syria rebels 'enter Idlib after storming regime lines'

Syria rebels 'enter Idlib after storming regime lines'
Activists and rebels say Jaysh al-Fath alliance has reached city centre after overwhelming more than a dozen army checkpoints - a claim denied by the regime.
3 min read
25 March, 2015
Rebels said they had made gains around the city [AFP/Getty]

Syrian rebels have breached the front lines of regime forces around Idlib and are now fighting in central areas of the city, according to rebels and activists near the fighting.

Abed Qantar, an activist, told al-Araby al-Jadeed on Wednesday that the advance by an alliance known as the Jaysh al-Fath [Army of Conquest] began with bombardment and assault on regime checkpoints on the city's outskirts.

The activist said more than a dozen regime checkpoints were seized. Qantar said house-to-house fighting was continuing inside the city late on Tuesday.

He added that rebels had also declared they had seized the Manshara barracks in eastern Idlib city and killed large numbers of pro-regime militants.

Qantar said regime forces responded by dropping two chlorine barrel bombs on the town of Bansh and bombing areas around the city of Idlib. A rebel commander in Bansh also reported the use of chlorine, saying that 30 people were affected by the chemical.

An activist who identified himself as Abu Abada from the town of Bansh said: "Opposition factions have seized in the city of Idlib the Justice Palace, the Education Department building, the governor's office, a barracks east of the city, and a gas-bottle factory."

However, the rebel alliance said on Twitter that its forces seized a number of checkpoints in the city, as well as parts of the university and some outlying neighbourhoods.

Regime governor denies rebel success

The governor of Idlib, Khair al-Din Abdul-Sattar al-Sayyed, denied the claims, saying in a statement that "hundreds if not thousands" of rebels were killed in the assault, which had stalled 2km outside the city. He said eight civilians were killed by rebel mortar bombs.

Activists posted images on the internet of the aftermath of suicide attacks and a seized regime checkpoint in Idlib.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in London, said its reports indicated that at least 20 regime troops and loyalist militants had been killed. It reported that the government had withdrawn several of its regional administrators from the city in the days before the attack.

The Army of Conquest is an alliance of groups including the Free Men of Syria, the Nusra Front, the Soldiers of Al-Aqsa, the Army of the Sunna, the Levant Battalion, the Hawks of the Levant, the Battalion of Righteousness, and the Soldiers of the Levant.

World Heritage site seized

Meanwhile, Syrian rebels on Wednesday were reported to have seized control of the southern town of Bosra al-Sham, pushing pro-regime forces out after four days of heavy fighting.

The Lopndon based activist group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that fighters pushed out regime forces from Shia districts of the town.

The activist group said there had been fighting near the town's archeological zone, but it was not known if it had been damaged.

Bosra al-Sham had remained firmly in the hands of government troops throughout the four-year-old conflict and was considered to be a stronghold of pro-government forces in the southern province of Daraa.

It is a predominantly Sunni town with a population of 30,000 but also has a sizable Shia community.

The town was once the capital of the Roman province of Arabia, and is on UNESCO's World Heritage list.

This is an edited translation of the original Arabic.