Syria's biggest rebel groups 'set up joint operations room' to defend Idlib from regime advance

Syria's biggest rebel groups 'set up joint operations room' to defend Idlib from regime advance
Syria's biggest rebel groups have agreed to unite as the Assad regime advances into the opposition heartland of Idlib.
2 min read
08 January, 2018
Syrian rebels will look to hold off the regime advance towards Idlib [Getty]
Syria's most powerful rebel groups have agreed to form a joint military commander, as Bashar al-Assad's forces advance towards Idlib province threatens the opposition's heartland.

A joint operations room is being set up by rival opposition factions as rebels look to hold ranks and halt a regime offensive on Idlib province, Syrian website Enab Baladi reported.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Ahrar al-Sham, Jaish al-Nasr and Nour al-Din al-Zinki are among factions to agree to the formation of the joint military command.

It will see coordinated military actions between the rebel groups as they look defend Idlib from the regime.

Opposition groups have not formally announced the operations room, but images of Abu Mohammed al-Jolani were shared on social media this weekend showing the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham leader working on battlefield tactics.

Pro-Assad forces advanced into southern Idlib for the first time since 2015, when the rebels captured the province as part of the Jaish al-Fatah command centre.

Since then the opposition in Idlib have been largely fragmented with two major coalitions - Tahrir al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham - vying for power in Idlib.

A small-scale war between the two factions broke out last year leading to HTS to takeover much of the province.

The prospect of a joint operations room will be a big boost for the opposition after divisions led to rebel groups losting ground to the regime in central and northern Syria.

Pro-Assad forces began their offensive on north-west Hama in October, taking advantage of an Islamic State group assault on the rebels in the province.

Fighting intensified on Christmas Day when Brigadier General Suheil al-Hassan  - commander of the elite al-Nimr Forces - took control of the offensive.
Backed by heavy air strikes, allied regime troops and militia fighters have managed to push the rebels into Idlib and now appear poised to move deeper into the province.

Syria's regime have won a series of victories since Russia entered the war in September 2015, when Assad's forces appeard on the brink of collapse.

Regime troops captured Aleppo city in 2015 from the opposition and have since worked on containing the rebels in Idlib and capturing - mostly resource-rich - territories elsewhere.