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Syrian regime forces 'collapsing' as rebels press Idlib offensive Open in fullscreen

Rami Sweid & Absi Smeisem

Syrian regime forces 'collapsing' as rebels press Idlib offensive

Regime forces have been impotent in the face of opposition advances [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 26 March, 2015

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Activists say regime soldiers have been forced on the defensive on the second day of a major rebel advance to take the city - a claim the regime denies.
Syrian regime forces are "collapsing" in the face of major offensive by rebel fighters to take Idlib, according to activists in the city and rebel leaders.

The fighters - under the banner of the "Jaysh al-Fath" (Army of Conquest) - said on Thursday they were continuing attacks on regime checkpoints on Idlib's outskirts, and had made progress on all sides of the city.

The Ahrar al-Sham group (the Free Men of the Levant), which is part of the rebel alliance, released videos showing its fighters in control of Idlib's Sadcop natural gas factory, which was being used as a barracks for regime forces.

Murad al-Idlibi, an activist, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that regime forces collapsed dramatically in the wake of the rebel attack on 24 March, losing men and materiel in intense bombardments and battles.

According to opposition sources, the ongoing battles on the outskirts of the city coincided with the defection of about 40 soldiers from the regime's forces stationed in Qarmid Camp along the Idlib-Sarmin road.

Regime denies rebel's claims

The regime's official news agency, Sana, however denied that its forces were on the retreat in Idlib.

Sana quoted a "military source" as saying that the army had foiled an attempt by "terrorists" - the regime term for all rebel forces - to infiltrate the city, and were hunting down those who fled in the aftermath.

The source stated that the Syrian army had forced rebels from several areas, and killed a number of high-profile leaders.

The offensive started two days after rebel groups announced the creation of a joint operations room that would command Jaysh al-Fath.

The alliance includes the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, the factions of Ahrar al-Sham, Faylaq al-Sham (Legion of the Levant), Suqour Ash-Sham (Falcons of the Levant), Ajnad ash-Sham (Soldiers of the Levant), Jund al-Aqsa (Soldiers of al-Aqsa), and Liwa al-Haqq (Justice Brigade).

In a separate development, the Anatolia news agency quoted the Turkish army as saying it had bombed Syrian regime positions hours after a Syrian missile hit the border area close to the Turkish city of Reyhanli, near the Bab al-Hawa border crossing in the Idlib countryside.

The missile attack did not lead to any casualties, but it was heard in the Turkish areas close to the Syrian border.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

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