Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Battle for Idlib City Approaches

Syrian rebels have secured towns across Idlib province, but the provincial capital, Idlib city remains in regime hands. Although Idlib's rebels often speak of liberating the city, it appears that the battle for the city may finally be approaching. In the northwest corner of the province, a number of rebel groups led by the Shuhada Idlib Brigade have finally captured the Harem citadel, after getting bogged down in the city for two months as regime fighters stubbornly held on. Subsequently, the Shuhada Idlib Brigade released a statement announcing that the brigade would withdraw from Harem within three days and redeploy to the outskirts of Idlib city in order to focus on attacking regime checkpoints in coordination with other brigades in the area. Meanwhile, the Yusuf al-Athimah Brigade posted a statement on December 24, announcing attacks on checkpoints on the outskirts on Idlib city in preparation for the city's liberation.

Part of the drive to finally focus on Idlib city stems from the reality that there are not many other prizes left for the rebels to pursue in northern Idlib. Some Idlib rebel groups are now operating in Aleppo, such as the Idlib Tawhid Brigade, Jabhat Thuwar Saraqeb, and Shuhada Suriya, which are fighting for control of a series of regime arms depots southwest of Aleppo city in Khan al-Duman. These powerful groups will have to return of Idlib if the rebels hope to take Idlib city.

The regime’s grip on Idlib city has been firm since rebels were pushed out of the city in March. Attacks increased around the city in late summer 2012, but were limited to one-off assaults, not large scale maneuvers aimed at forcing the regime out of the city. Although the regime’s position is anchored by the Mastoumah military base located five kilometers south of the city, there is no airbase near Idlib city, leaving the regime’s supply routes vulnerable to a siege.

                                    1) Harem
                                    2) Idlib City
                                    3) Mastoumah
                                    4) Khan al-Duman

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