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Rebels move closer to full control of Idlib province

AMMAN: The coalition of rebel groups called the “Victory Army” […]

27 April 2015

AMMAN: The coalition of rebel groups called the “Victory Army” announced that it had captured one of the last regime bases in Idlib on Monday, bringing the armed opposition closer to full control of the province.

Now that the makeshift base on the site of a former brick factory has fallen to the rebels, the Victory Army will turn its sights to nearby regime-controlled Ariha and al-Mastuma, two of the last major regime bases in Idlib that are located south of the eponymous capital, Ali al-Hafawi, a journalist embedded with Ahrar a-Sham al-Islamiya, told Syria Direct Monday.

“The battle will not end until the Victory Army takes full control of the area,” al-Hafawi said.

Contrary to pro-opposition reports of complete control over the base, known as al-Qarmeed, state-owned news agency SANA reported Monday that “army units are waging fierce battles in the vicinity of al-Qarmeed factory and exterminating dozens of Chechen suicide bomber terrorists.”

With the Victory Army in control of al-Qarmeed, “90 percent of the [supply] road to the al-Mastuma base is cut off,” Abu Bakr a-Shami, a military leader with the Victory Army, was quoted as saying in an interview with citizen journalist Hadi al-Abdullah on Sunday.

“The regime is trying to secure a route to withdraw” from al-Mastuma, al-Shami said.

Rebel control of al-Qarmeed comes after a coalition of Islamist groups captured the city of Jisr a-Shughur in western Idlib province on Saturday, cutting off a key supply line from Latakia into southern Idlib province and leaving al-Mastuma and al-Qarmeed isolated from overland supply routes, reported pan-Arab daily al-Hayat Sunday.

The regime responded to its loss of Jisr a-Shughur by targeting the city and its vicinity with air raids through Monday, Tariq Abdul Haq, a citizen journalist present in the city, told Syria Direct Monday.

Jisr a-Shughur is currently devoid of civilian inhabitants after a large-scale exodus towards rebel-controlled areas in Idlib and the Turkish-Syrian border, Abdul Haq said.

A barrel bomb attack on a popular market in the nearby town of Dargush Sunday killed 50 people and wounded dozens, including pro-opposition Itihad Press correspondent Ahmed Khuja, reported pro-opposition Sham News Network.

Remaining regime-controlled areas in Idlib province include Ariha and neighboring Jabal al-Arbain, the al-Mastuma base, the Shiite-majority towns of Fuaa and Kafariya, and the Abu A-Dhuhur airbase, besieged by rebels for more than two years.

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