Syria Direct: News Update 5-20-15

Idlib Victory Army takes Mastuma, pursues regime forces south

The Idlib Victory Army coalition followed up the capture of the al-Mastuma military base on Wednesday by taking the village of Nahliya just south on Wednesday while pursuing regime forces retreating even farther south to Ariha.

Rebel fighters announced their control of the village of Nahliya in a video posted to YouTube on Wednesday

“The regime retreated in the direction of Ariha to the south of the base and the Victory Army is pursuing them,” Abu Qasoura, a leader in a participating rebel brigade, told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

“Jund al-Aqsa and Jaysh al-Sunna were able to enter the base after many and ongoing defections from the regime’s army there,” he added, explaining the circumstances of the rebel seizure of the al-Moustama base on Tuesday.

The base, located less than 10 kilometers south of Idlib city, became a focal point for fighting after rebels captured the provincial capital on March 28, leaving the regime with only a string of positions in the province leading back to its adjacent stronghold of Latakia.

A video displaying materiel captured by the rebels showed that the Idlib Victory Army gained several 9M133 Kornet anti-tank missiles with launchers, dozens of RPG rounds, at least one of the tandem-warhead variety, and high-explosive and kinetic-kill tank rounds, according to an analysis by Syria Direct’s open source partner, Open Syria.

A fighter with the Victory Army celebrates Mastuma’s capture. Photo courtesy of Abed Alrazaq Zqzoq. 

Idlib pays price amidst regime push

Regime forces attacked a market in the town of Darkoush to the northwest of Jisr al-Shughour in Idlib on Tuesday, in what activists have termed a “massacre,” opposition news outlet Syria Mubasher reported on Wednesday.

“Regime planes targeted the main market of the town of Darkoush with three vacuum missiles, killing up to 22 civilians, including women and children,” media activist Hussein A-Tawil told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

Victims of the attack could not be treated locally, he added, “since the hospital in town is no longer functioning because it was bombed more than ten days ago.”

Also in Idlib province, activists and opposition media reported that regime helicopters had used chemical weapons in two villages to the west of Jisr al-Shughur, pro-opposition Siraj Press reported on Tuesday, resulting in 50 cases of suffocation, reported pro-opposition Smart News Network.

Regime forces “targeted [the village of Mishmishan] with barrel bombs filled with pressurized canisters containing poison chlorine gas,” activist Tariq Abdul Haq from the Jusr al-Shughour Coordination told Syria Direct on Wednesday, after which the Civil Defense transported those affected to field hospitals for treatment.

The Jisr al-Shughour Civil Defense circulated videos and images of gas canisters used the reported attacks on social media Tuesday.