October 30, 2014
Opposition forces led by Jabhat a-Nusra conducted a surprise attack against the regime-controlled Idlib city in the eponymous province this past Monday morning, storming the governor’s building, killing dozens of soldiers and capturing two regime tanks, reported pro-opposition news agency Edlib News Network.
The regime has since repelled the offensive, said pro-regime Idlib News Network.
The assault against Idlib city marked the first major attack against the provincial capital in over a year, and one of just a handful since the regime took control of the city in 2012.
The rebels also captured the al-Mustama hill south of Idlib city, which overlooks the city, and a number of regime checkpoints in the attack, Anis Qaddur, an Idlib city-based independent media activist, tells Syria Direct’s Osama Abu Zeid.
Nusra has increased its activity in Idlib since July, fighting with a number of Western-backed rebels in the province while battling the Islamic State and the Syrian regime, says Brookings weapons specialist Charles Lister.
Following its attack on Idlib city Monday, Nusra fought with the Western-backed Syrian Revolutionaries Front in the province before agreeing to a truce with them Thursday.
Q: What is the importance of Idlib city?
The rebels want to control the city to open the path between it and the [rebel-controlled city] Jisr al-Shaghour in southwest Idlib province.
Controlling the city will also weaken the regime.
Jabhat a-Nusra carries out attacks on regime controlled Idlib city. Photo courtesy @AnbaGate.
Q: How were the rebels able to breach the governor’s building with such ease?
The governor’s building is located in west Idlib (city). The operation was easy after the rebels took control of Ariha-Idlib road and al-Mustuma hill. It was closer to an infiltration operation than an assault.
Q: Why did Nusra attack now?
Jabhat A-Nusra has been preparing for an assault against the regime in Idlib for some time now.
The battle is meant to spread fear amongst regime forces.
Q: Are the rebels still inside the building?
No, they left after the operation. They took more than 10 soldiers as prisoners from the building, including one officer, and killed a number of others.
Q: Where are the rebels focusing in the city now?
The rebels are focusing on two sides – the north and the west. The fighting has been reduced because the regime cleaned out some of the areas around the city and imposed a security blockade in the northern parts of the city that are still under its control. The regime is afraid of potential surprise attacks so it’s preventing students from going to school and workers from going to their jobs.
Q: Where is al-Mustama hill located and what is its importance?
Al-Mustuma hill is located about eight km to the south of Idlib city. It’s a fairly tall hill and its importance lies in the fact that it overlooks a number of points that the regime has reinforced, including the al-Mustuma [military] base. In addition, whoever controls the hill has a view of the road to Ariha.
Q: Who controls the road between Ariha and Idlib?
Control over the road is divided. The rebels control over a number of points on the Idlib-Ariha road. Other points are either controlled by the regime or by no one because the regime used bombs and missiles to clear out those areas.
Q: How has the attack on Idlib city been and who is participating in the attack?
Attacks on the city took place on three fronts – the south, the north and the west – Monday morning led by Jabhat a-Nusra, Soldiers of al-Aqsa, and other groups.
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