SPOILS OF WAR: Rebels are crediting a unified front for their victory over Syrian government forces in Idlib city as Jabhat a-Nusra begins to position itself as the ruling faction over the second provincial capital to fall into the rebel column.
"We won because we were united," Alaa Aboud, the alias of a citizen journalist in Idlib city, Syria Direct on Monday. "We treated officers who surrendered well."
Idlib city succumbed over the weekend after repeated assaults by a coalition under the rubric the “Victory Army,” led by Jabhat a-Nusra and Ahrar a-Sham, that began only five days before. Photographs circulating on social media after the rebels’ victory show fighters together waving the flags of Jabhat a-Nusra, Ahrar a-Sham and the FSA.
The opposition Syrian National Coalition said it plans to move its offices into the city, according to a statement the group released over social media on Sunday.
But Jabhat a-Nusra quickly refuted the SNC’s claim.
“It is false that the [SNC] will enter Idlib!” said Abdullah Mohammed al-Mheisnei, a top Islamic cleric for Jabhat a-Nusra, on his Twitter account Monday.
For the moment, Nusra appears to be allaying fears that it might move unilaterally in the city as it has done elsewhere in the province.
“It is haram [forbidden] to attack or steal the belongings of Christians” in the city, said al-Mheisnei.
While Idlib city is a Sunni-majority city, it also had a significant Christian population before the war.
Nusra forcibly expelled the US-backed Syrian Revolutionaries Front from the province in late 2014 and executed women for “immorality” earlier this year, following what Idlib-based activists say was an increase in governance by strict Islamic law.
Meanwhile, the Islamic State may also have its eyes on Idlib city. The jihadist group, which controls the other provincial capital outside regime control in A-Raqqa, reportedly threatened via an IS-affiliated social media account to capture the city, said the grassroots media campaign A-Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently on Monday.
-March 30, 2015
-Photo courtesy of @archicivilians