THE GREAT ESCAPE: Regime forces fled en masse from the fallen military bases of Wadi Deif and Hamadiya in Idlib province on Tuesday, resulting in opposition forces seizing control of southern Idlib and reportedly taking hundreds of prisoners.
“The number of regime prisoners [rebels captured] is more than 250, including a commander and 15 regime soldiers who tried to escape by dressing like women,” an Idlib-based journalist, who goes by the pseudonym Alaa al-Din and works for the pro-opposition Idlib News Agency, told Syria Direct Tuesday. The journalist’s story was corroborated by other opposition news sources based in Idlib.
Rebels led by Jabhat a-Nusra and Ahrar a-Sham stormed the two regime bases on Monday, one day after the two groups captured a number of checkpoints in the surrounding vicinity.
Wadi Deif is one of the largest military bases in Syria, and is located on the strategic M5 highway that connects Damascus to Aleppo. Until Monday, rebels had unsuccessfully attempted to capture the regime stronghold for more than a year and half.
The government soldiers finally arrived at the regime-controlled town of Morek in northern Homs province on Tuesday, according to the pro-regime Idlib Media Center on Tuesday.
“More than 1,000 members of the Defense Forces have arrived from Wadi Deif, Hamadiya, Maar Hattat and Basidah,” said the Media Center.
The regime responded by launching at least 42 airstrikes on Wadi Deif and the surrounding area, reported the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Tuesday.
Regime airports around the country are currently being used from which to launch airstrikes to provide cover for the fleeing soldiers, said the Idlib Media Center.
Some members of the Syrian army reportedly made it as far south as the Hama military airport, where this picture was taken, before flying to safety.
Wadi Deif fell first early Monday morning to Jabhat a-Nusra forces, who reportedly used American-made TOW anti-tank missiles in the attack, according to Nusra’s social media account for Idlib.
Regime soldiers from Wadi Deif then fled to the nearby Hamadiya base, located only a few kilometers to the southwest.
Ahrar a-Sham’s subsequent attack on Hamadiya forced the soldiers to flee further south to the regime-controlled checkpoint of Basidah and town of Maar Hattat along the M5 highway, before finally arriving in the town of Morek in northern Homs.
-December 16, 2014
-Photo courtesy of Ahmad Nabulsi