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Jihadist-led coalition continues to make gains in Idlib
Jaysh al Fateh ("Army of Conquest"), a jihadist-led coalition of several groups, swept through several towns and villages in the Syrian province of Idlib in recent days. The coalition's military successes began in March, when the alliance was announced and quickly overran Assad's forces in the city of Idlib.
The newly captured residential areas are near Jisr Al Shughur and Ariha, two cities that fell to the jihadists in recent months.
The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's official branch in Syria, is one of the key groups in Jaysh al Fateh. Al Nusrah has posted pictures and videos from the newly "liberated" areas on its Twitter feeds. A sampling of these images can be seen below.
The towns and villages seized by Jaysh al Fateh include A'yn al Hamra, Basnaqul, Muhambel, and Sanqara. Other military checkpoints fell as well.
As is customary after their military successes, the jihadists posted pictures of the "booty" they captured from the Syrian government, including arms and armored vehicles.
Some of the photos posted on Al Nusrah's social media sites highlight the fact that the recent gains give its fighters much easier access to the neighboring coastal province of Latakia, which has long been a stronghold of the Assad family. The images include pictures of Syrian soldiers laying dead on the highway between Idlib and Latakia.
The Syrian regime has conceded that its forces retreated from the area. Agence France Presse (AFP) cited a "military source" as saying that "the army evacuated several military sites around the town of Muhambel in Idlib province." And SANA, the regime's propaganda news agency, said Assad's fighters "relocated to new positions and lines more suitable for the implementation of subsequent combat missions."
Jaysh al Fateh's latest surge in Idlib comes at a time when key member groups in the coalition are redeploying some of their fighters to battle the Islamic State in Aleppo. The Al Nusrah Front, Ahrar al Sham, and others in Jaysh al Fateh sent forces to Aleppo after the Islamic State seized territory from the Levant Front, another coalition of several groups.
This has forced Al Nusrah, Ahrar al Sham and other groups to battle the Assad regime and the Islamic State at the same time. Al Nusrah has posted pictures of tanks and other weaponry being used in the fight against Abu Bakr al Baghdadi's organization online. One such photo can be seen on the right.
The anti-Assad jihadists openly worried that the Islamic State's latest push into Aleppo would compromise their ability to continue the offensive against Assad in Idlib and elsewhere. Thus far, Jaysh al Fateh has enough fighters to staff both fights. However, the recently captured territory did not require as many fighters as would be necessary for a major push into Latakia.
[Source: By Caleb Weiss, Threat Matrix, The Long War Journal, 09Jun15]
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