Syrian Islamists Kill at Least 40 Soldiers, Seize Territory in Idlib

Al-Qaeda fighters force Syrian military to regroup

Ongoing fighting in Syria’s Idlib Province took a turn against the Assad government’s forces over the past two days, with fighters from al-Qaeda and its allied Islamist factions launching attacks on Syrian military forces.

Faced with heavy gunfire and car bombs, the Syrian military was forced to abandon positions within the deescalation zone to the Islamists. Syrian state media reported they were regrouping elsewhere.

Russian officials reported that the Syrian troops lost two settlements in the fighting, and estimated that 40 troops were killed in the fighting. The fighting took place near Maarat al-Numaan.

Rebel group the National Liberation Front (NLF) issued their own statement denying that anything of the sort happened, saying the only fighting was earlier in the week. It should be noted, however, that their factions are not accused of participating in this fighting anyhow.

Tiny Idlib Province is generally the last province which is under rebel control in Syria, and Turkey in particular has invested heavily in backing rebels in the area to ensure that they don’t lose outright.

Rebel defeats elsewhere in the country often saw deals where rebels were evacuated into Idlib, and this has left the small province tightly packed with rebels, not all of which are on the same page. Keen to move on to a post-war period, Syria is very interested in defeating the last rebel groups, especially the al-Qaeda-linked factions.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.