Syrian rebels launched an invasion on the regime-held countryside of Idlib province in northwestern Syria, as they advanced toward the Sahl al Ghab plain near the western coastal regions, vital to President Bashar al Assad’s control, a monitoring group and activists announced on Tuesday.
Prominent opposition groups such as Ahrar al Sham, Failaq al Sham, Jund al Aqsa and others, alongside with Al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front had jointed last March in a unified operation room that dubbed the Fatah Army (Army of Conquest) to orchestrate the armed takeover of the Idlib Province from the regime.
Fatah army took over the city of Idlib on March 28 and later the city of Jisr al Shughur. Since then the battle has been ongoing to capture the suburbs of Idlib.
The alliance, “Fatah Army,” announced on Monday through social media the beginning of the operation of Sahl al Ghab.
Sahl al Ghab is a crucial plain in the defence to the heartland of the Syrian regime and the pro-Assad coastal provinces of Latakia and Tartus, inhabited mostly by Assad’s Alawite sect.
Activists who are monitoring the war through on ground sources said on social media that the rebels had seized the power station of Zayaon, where tons of ammunition were gained. They listed 30 points captured in the offensive in 16 villages. Huge amounts of weapons and ammunition have been collected by the rebels in Tal Hamki, activists reported.
More than 140 regime soldiers were killed in the battles of Sahl al Ghab, activists reported, but the number could not be independently verified.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based NGO that watch the Syrian war using sources on the ground, said rebels including Nusra Front fighters had captured regime-held positions close the town of Jisr al Shughour in Idlib Province pushing into Sahl al Ghab plain overnight.
The military source said: "The battles are ongoing in that area between the army and the militant attackers, the terrorists."
Rami Abdurrahman, director of the SOHR said the regime forces had launched a counterattack and retake on some lost ground.
The war in Syria started in 2011 in the form of anti-government demonstrations, but descended into a civil war between five main factions - the regime, the opposition, the Nusra Front, ISIS, and the Kurdish YPG militia.
A US-led coalition started air strikes in Syria and Iraq against ISIS targets last September.
Over four years of fighting in Syria has left over 230,000 Syrians dead, according to UN estimates. More than 6.7 million are displaced internally while at least 5 million have fled the country to neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.