Rebels captured the last remaining regime-held stronghold in Jisr a-Shughour, the National Hospital building, on Friday. Here, Ali al-Hafawi, spokesman for Ahrar a-Sham, talks to Syria Direct’s Noura al-Hourani about the circumstances of the hospital’s capture and the fate of the regime soldiers who fled.
Q: Why didn’t the rebels blow up the tunnel [leading into the hospital] as was planned?
Rebel forces planned to blow up the hospital Monday morning by means of a tunnel they had dug leading up to the building.
Regime forces discovered the tunnel when they heard digging, and also because information leaked by way of some opposition forces. Accordingly, the regime tried to act early—they bombed the surrounding area with warplanes in order to secure the exit of their forces under air cover.
Regime soldiers in the National Hospital building before its capture. Photo courtesy of @hayetlavie2.
Q: How exactly did the capture of the hospital occur?
Opposition forces stormed the building and killed a number of regime soldiers. As for those who were able to flee the hospital, they headed for the surrounding orchards.
The majority were either captured or killed, because the armed opposition was monitoring and surrounding the area well. 208 dead regime soldiers have been documented until now, including high-ranking officers. This is considered a harsh blow to the regime, which had promised to free those trapped in the hospital.