Rebel Fighters Make Rapid Gains in Idleb, Hama

Opposition offensive on regime positions was "large and widespread", says Syrian military source

Rebel group Jaish al-Fatah (Army of Conquest) has made rapid advances in the western countryside of Idleb and the nearby Sahl al-Ghab plain in Hama province, taking control of 12 hills and villages and inflicting humiliating defeats on the Syrian regime army, activists and rebel sources said on Tuesday.

‫ The new major offensive by the alliance of Islamist groups, including Nusra Front and the Ahrar al-Sham Movement, seized control of most of Idleb’s countryside, only months after capturing Idleb’s city, Ariha and Jisr al-Shughour. A Syrian military source described the attack as “large and widespread”.

Rebels are now seeking to drive into the Sahl al-Ghab plain, an area crucial to the defense of the coastal mountains, stronghold of Bashar al-Assad's Alawite sect, Reuters reported.

‫ Rebel news feeds on Twitter said Syrian regime forces had failed to defend the hills that overlook the Alawite villages.

Last week, Jaish al-Fatah launched an attack on two Shiite villages in northern Idleb following two years of siege. Rebels said the attacks were in response to the brutal assault by regime and Hezbollah forces on Zabadani, a Syrian border town near Lebanon.

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