0

Comments

Facebook

Twitter

Google

send


NOW

Regime’s Idlib front collapsing

The Army of Conquest seized the Jisr al-Shughur National Hospital and is advancing on Ariha.

Jisr al-Shughur National Hospital. (Twitter/Nusra Front)

BEIRUT – The Army of Conquest rebel coalition in northwest Syria has continued to advance against regime troops desperately defending a collapsing salient of territory in the Idlib province.

 

Following a nearly month-long siege, the insurgents stormed into the Jisr al-Shughur National Hospital, where hundreds of government forces—among them high-ranking officers and provincial officials—barricaded themselves following the fall of the nearby town on April 25.

 

“The Al-Nusra Front and [other] Islamist factions have taken complete control of the National Hospital on the southwest outskirts of the town of Jisr al-Shughur,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Friday morning.

 

“Opposition control of the hospital came after dozens of regime servicemen managed to escape, fleeing toward the Syrian army forces and pro-regime militias that have been trying to break the siege on the building,” the monitoring NGO said.

 

The Observatory added that amid the fierce clashes near the facility, regime warplanes “carried out intensive air raids on rebel positions inside and outside the hospital complex, killing and injuring several regime fighters, while others were taken prisoner.”

 

 “So far the fate of the regime servicemen who managed to escape remains unknown.”

 

Servicemen escape hospital

 

Regime escape

 

An image circulated by the Al-Nusra Front purports to show regime forces escaping the Jisr al-Shughur National Hospital on Friday. (Twitter/JnLazeqeya)

 

The circumstances of the fall of the hospital remain foggy, as independent reports have yet to elaborate on whether regime troops managed to break the siege to facilitate the escape, or if it was a last ditch-run.

 

The Observatory earlier Friday said that while pro-regime troops tried to break the siege, fierce fighting raged hundreds of meters outside the building, jets conducted at least 22 raids and helicopters dropped barrel bombs on the area of the clashes.

 

In a rare public appearance on May 6, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad vowed that his government would break the siege, saying that “the army will arrive soon to these heroes trapped in the Jisr al-Shughur hospital.”

 

Syria’s state SANA news agency trumpeted Friday that “the force defending Jisr al-Shughur National Hospital carried out a tactical maneuver this morning […] and has managed to successfully break the siege.”

 

However, the pro-rebel El Dorar news outlet said that the holed-up defenders of the hospital had fled in advance of a tunnel bombing.

 

“The escape came just a few hours before an explosives-rigged tunnel dug under the hospital by the rebels was due to be detonated,” the outlet cited sources as saying.

 

“Combing operations began after the rebels enforced a cordon around the hospital complex,” it added.

 

“Regime servicemen are unlikely to reach Syrian army lines as the area around the hospital is completely surrounded.”

 

The escape comes after five regime troops in the hospital reportedly handed themselves over to rebels on Thursday afternoon.

 

According to pro-opposition outlet Siraj Press, the surrendered servicemen told the rebels that morale among regime troops still under siege had collapsed due to a lack of food and water after attempts to air drop supplies failed.

 

The servicemen also said that a number of soldiers who tried to defect had been shot by the officers present, which made the remaining servicemen fear making a similar attempt.

 

Ariha front

 

A video shows an FSA fighter targeting a tank at the Maatrim checkpoint. (YouTube/Safa News Agency)

 

As rebels progressed outside Jisr al-Shughur, they continued their offensive to seize Ariha, the last regime-held town in the province.

 

The assault comes after the Army of Conquest took over the Mastouma base north of the town in a blow to the regime, whose troops then fled to Ariha.

 

The Observatory reported Thursday that the rebels had been engaged in clashes with regime forces in the village of Kafr Najd, southwest of Ariha.

 

Meanwhile, Alaraby Aljadeed said that opposition forces had seized a number of checkpoints in the area in a melee of attacks that left regime armor in ruins.

 

“Forces under the FSA’s 13th Division were able to destroy a T72 tank and a Shilka armored vehicle with two TOW rockets […] at the regime’s checkpoint in the Maatrim area to the west of Ariha,” the London-based daily quoted a media activist as saying.

 

“The 13th Division’s forces also destroyed two other vehicles on the Manshara checkpoint, which lies to the west, with anti-armor rockets,” Yasser al-Ibrahim said.  

 

These operations by opposition forces come after they took control of the regime’s Al-Jumah checkpoint at Ariha’s northern entrance, after it was stormed by Army of Conquest fighters, Alaraby Aljadeed reported.

 

The paper added that the advance had followed a barrage of unbroken rebel-shelling with Katyusha rockets and mortar rounds, that forced Syrian regime troops to withdraw from the checkpoint in to the town.

Al-Nusra Front fighters storm the Jisr al-Shughur National Hospital. (Twitter/Nusra Front)

The Al-Nusra Front and [other] Islamist factions have taken complete control of the National Hospital on the southwest outskirts of the town of Jisr al-Shughur.