Syrian rebels claim regime rout in Idlib province

Syrian rebels claim regime rout in Idlib province
Activists says coalition of opposition forces overwhelmed regime positions to south of governorate, leaving regime in control of only a handful of areas.
3 min read
17 December, 2014
The regime has suffered a series of major reverses in Idlib [AFP]

Syrian opposition forces including members of the al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front have seized control of all Syrian army camps in the south and east of Idlib governorate, according to reports from anti-regime activists.

Syrian opposition forces took over Wadi al-Daif base, east of Maaret al-Numan, the biggest town in the south of Idlib governorate, and the Hamidiya complex south of the town, activists told al-Araby al-Jadeed. Sources said more than 200 Syrian army soldiers were captured and more than 150 killed in days of fighting.

The Islamic Front coalition, the Free Syrian Army’s 13th Division and the Nusra Front began their attack on Wadi al-Daif camp on Sunday morning. Activists reported that rebels used US-made TOW tank missiles in their attack, although al-Araby can not confirm this detail.

Opposition forces had taken hold of the Madajen, Zaalana, Dabaan and al-Rai checkpoints surrounding the Wadi al-Daif camp by Sunday night, and seized two Syrian army tanks at the Ayn Qari checkpoint in the south of Maaret al-Numan itself.

Chaotic retreat

     Opposition forces took over Wadi al-Daif base and the Hamidiya complex near Maaret al-Numan.

The remaining Syrian forces in the camp withdrew late on Sunday night and headed south towards the Hamidiya complex 7km south of Maarat al-Numan.

Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, a member of the Islamic Front, announced on Monday morning they had seized full control of the camp.

Opposition activist Marwan al-Idliby described the withdrawal as a "chaotic escape operation, unorganised to the extent that Syrian army helicopters dropped food and ammunition over the camp to resupply their soldiers after Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham took over".

"The Syrian army was late, it did not send aid to its troops in the camp until Monday morning due to poor weather conditions that prevented their aircraft from counter-attacking opposition forces," added Idliby.

Success at last

Opposition forces then attacked the Hamidiya complex, according to opposition sources at the time sheltering 700 Syrian army personnel, 300 of whom had fled from the Wadi al-Daif camp. The troops began a second chaotic withdrawal, leaving behind more than 30 tanks, most of which were not operational, and hundreds of other vehicles.

Opposition activists reported that the government troops retreated to the town of Morek more than 20km south, in regime-controlled northern Hamah. However, the retreat was harassed by opposition forces.

     The regime now controls only the city of Idlib, two towns and a military base in Idlib governorate.

They announced they had killed 15 soldiers and destroyed an armoured personnel carrier in Tell Sidi Jaafar, north of the town of Khan Sheikhoun in the far south of Idlib province. They also announced they had killed more than 20 Syrian army soldiers in the nearby Rabe al-Jour area.

Al-Araby is unable to independently verify the activists reports. If they are correct, the regime now controls only the city of Idlib, and the towns of al-Fawaa and Kafriya in the north. The opposition controls the area of Mastouma and the towns of Areeha and Jisr al-Shughur on the Idlib-Latakia main road, which was the army’s last route for supplies and reinforcements.

The Syrian army also controls the Qarmid military base east of the city of Idlib.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.