Syrian opposition factions prepare for Idlib battle

Syrian opposition factions prepare for Idlib battle
3 min read
18 March, 2015
Opposition groups and regime forces are preparing for a battle for the control the city of Idlib in northwest Syria, sources tell al-Araby al-Jadeed.
The aftermath of the regime's attack on Sarmin, 17 March [Anadolu]
Syrian opposition factions are preparing for a battle for the city of Idlib in northwest Syria, currently under regime control.

They are supported by the brigades of Ahrar al-Sham, Suqour al-Sham, Nusra Front and Failaq al-Sham, and other factions such as the Army of Islam, according to information obtained by al-Araby al-Jadeed from sources in the joint operations room of the armed opposition factions.

"The battle will be managed from a joint operations room for all participating factions," a Nusra source told al-Araby al-Jadeed. There are three operations rooms; two are fake and one real. There is one in the town of Sarmin, which may explain why it was targeted two days ago in a toxic gas attack, the source explained.

Nusra is contributing most fighters in this battle (3,000) along with infiltration fighters to create gaps in enemy lines, according to the source.

"Each faction is responsible for certain fronts; Nusra will cover west Idlib and Broma farms in the northwest, while Ahrar al-Sham will cover east Idlib near the town of Bensh, and Suqour al-Sham will cover the southern fronts," said the Nusra source.

Areas near Idlib controlled by opposition factions have witnessed the unprecedented military mobilisation of factions before the battle. The regime has also reinforced barricades around the city with tanks. In addition, there has been a mass exodus of civilians, especially after the Syrian airforce attacked the town of Sarmin on 17 March, according to local activists.
     The regime has closed all roads leading to Idlib, and announced it is evacuating offices and institutions in the city.

"The regime's airforce continues to fly over the town and occasionally drop explosive barrels," the activists added.

"There has been a state of panic among the regime's thugs, who fear the army will withdraw towards the town of Jisr al-Shughour, leaving them to face opposition factions alone," an-Idlib based source told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

Meanwhile, the regime has closed all roads leading to Idlib, and announced it is evacuating offices and institutions in the city and moving them to Jisr al-Shughour, which is under its control.

The National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces has condemned the chemical attack on Sarmin, and demanded the Security Council sends a fact-finding mission to Sarmin and opens an investigation into the use of chlorine gas.

Criminals should be held responsible and punished according to measures stipulated in Security Council Resolution 2118, the coalition said. "The Security Council is obliged to implement the articles of Resolution 2209, which stipulate chlorine gas is a toxic chemical weapon, and consider its use in military operations a flagrant violation of international law and Resolution 2118," it added. 

The coalition said Articles 6 and 7 of the latest Security Council resolution stress that those responsible for the use of chemical weapons — including chlorine — must be held accountable. "In the event of non-compliance with Resolution 2118 (2013), it would impose measures under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter," it added. 

Khaled al-Aswad, Director of the Kafr Takharim hospital, announced that the toxic gas attack on Sarmin had killed six including women and children, and injured over 90.

The gas used was toxic chlorine gas that causes respiratory symptoms in victims "with varying degrees of severity, leading to inflammation of the respiratory tract, redness of the eyes, nausea, vomiting and dizziness”, Aswad explained.

The hospital needs oxygen cylinders, sprays, Salbutamol inhalers and Cortivent to treat those injured, and protective suits for the medical teams, he added.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.