One of last regime towns in Idlib rebel crosshairs
Rebel groups with the Victory Army coalition are shelling government checkpoints outside Ariha on Thursday in preparation for an imminent assault on the city.
“The bombing is a prelude to the storming of the city,” an anonymous military source with Feilaq a-Sham, one of the rebel groups targeting the city, told Syria Direct on Thursday.
“In the next two days, Ariha will see a fierce battle to liberate it from regime forces.”
Images posted by Jabhat a-Nusra on social media show fighters launching mortar shells and locally made “hell cannon” missiles at regime points on Wednesday. The group also alleged defections by regime forces in the city on the same day.
After the loss of the Mastuma base in south Idlib last week to rebels, regime soldiers retreated to Ariha, one of the last regime posts in Idlib province.
“The preliminary shelling is along the same lines of what we did at the Mastuma base and Wadi a-Deif,” the military source said.
Even before the battle itself, civilians in Ariha have suffered due to lack of water and electricity outages as a result of the fighting around the city, Lebanese pro-regime channel al-Mayadeen reported earlier this month.
Factions of the Victory Army overlooking Ariha, implying an imminent battle. Photo courtesy of Syrian Revolution Page.
Rebels warn residents Daraa town now ‘military area’
A group of rebel brigades issued a statement warning citizens in the regime-controlled city of Izraa in Daraa province to “distance themselves from military areas” on Wednesday as opposition forces began shelling two military bases in the city, reported opposition news sources.
“Due to ongoing conditions in the Houran, the Izraa operations room announces that the city of Izraa is a military area, we call on our brothers in the city to stay away from military areas and gatherings of regime forces,” read the statement, published by the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front.
Izraa sits on a stretch of regime territory connecting Damascus south to Daraa city, with the rest of the province.
“Most of the regime’s operations against the regime in Daraa province have been launched from Izraa, and it has been a source of regime reinforcements for its battles in the countryside,” Abu Durgham al-Hourani, an opposition activist from the province, told Syria Direct on Thursday.
“If the rebels are able to take Izraa it means that southern Syria will have fallen out of the regime’s control and nothing of military value to the regime will be left in southern Syria,” added Hourani.