Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Rebels Return to Idlib City

The Shuhada Idlib Brigade reported the destruction of a checkpoint in western Idlib city today in an operation carried out in conjunction with two other rebel groups. While multiple checkpoints were attacked in northern Syria today, this attack is particularly significant because it confirms the return of the Syrian rebels to Idlib city.  In late 2011-early 2012, Idlib city was a significant center of rebel activity, but the fighters were poorly organized, allowing the regime to clear the city in three short days in March 2012.  Video evidence, such as this al-Jazeera report in early March featuring the future leader of the Jafar al-Tayar Battalion, one of the Shuhada Brigade's most important battalions, confirms that the fighters that later created the Shuhada Idlib Brigade, were fighting in Idlib city in March. After being driven out, they moved north of the city and  formed the Shuhada Idlib Brigade in April under the leadership of Basil Issa. 

Due to the regime’s tight control of Idlib city, the brigade set its sights on the northern Idlib countryside, carrying out large, coordinated attacks in the border region. In late June, hundreds of Shuhada Idlib fighters traveled in a convoy to attack regime positions in Armanaz.  A month later, the brigade captured the town of Salqin, six kilometers from the Turksih border, from a contingent of Shabiha. 

The brigade shifted its focus back to Idlib city after the regime drew down its forces there in late July in order to increase forces around Aleppo city. This created an opening across Idlib province for rebels seeking to expand their safe zones and for the rebels who used to operate in Idlib city to vie for control of their provincial capital.
Basil Issa with the leaders of the Shuhada Idlib Brigade's twelve component battalions. The leader of the Jafar al-Tayar Battalion is on the far right.

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