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Jihadist-led coalition launches new offensive against Assad regime in strategic plain

Jaysh al Fateh (the "Army of Conquest"), a coalition of anti-Assad forces that overran much of the Idlib province earlier this year, has launched a new offensive against the Assad regime. The jihadist-led alliance is using its stronghold in Idlib to push south into the Al Ghab plain, which is considered strategically important for both the Syrian government and its opposition.

The jihadists and other rebel forces have long had the plain in their sights, but their recent advances in the Idlib province have fueled the current battle. Al Ghab lies to the south of Jisr Al Shughur, a city that was captured by the jihadists in April.

If the new campaign is successful, then it will likely have ramifications for the Syrian government's position in both Latakia and Hama provinces. Latakia, a stronghold for the Assad family, lies to the West of the Al Ghab plain on Syria's coast. Hama lies to the south.

As in the past, Jaysh al Fateh's various member groups are using their social media sites to provide updates on the fighting. The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's official branch in Syria, and Ahrar al Sham, an al Qaeda-linked insurgency organization, have published a steady stream of photos and videos since the offensive began.

Al Nusrah and Ahrar al Sham fight side by side in various alliances, including Jaysh al Fateh, with other groups throughout Syria.

Other organizations involved in the new battle reportedly include: Jund al Aqsa (a front for al Qaeda), Junud al Sham (a Chechen-led group that is linked to al Qaeda), the Turkistan Islamic Party (a predominately Uighur force that is part of al Qaeda's international network), Ajnad al Sham, and Faylaq al Sham (or the "Sham legion," which has been portrayed as a coalition of more moderate Islamist groups), among others.

On its official Twitter feed, Jaysh al Fateh claims that its fighters have already captured up to 11 locations, including towns, villages, and the Zeyzoun power station.

In the past, Assad's fighters have repelled the insurgents' attempts to capture Zeyzoun. But Jaysh al Fateh's propagandists are advertising the alliance's possession of the plant and underscoring its importance. Both Ahrar al Sham and Faylaq al Sham say the station is now in mujahideen hands. In addition, a Twitter feed associated with Ahrar al Sham describes Zeyzoun as the largest power station in northern Syria. According to press accounts, the plant supplies electricity to Jisr Al Shughur and in Al Ghab.

In separate tweets, several of Jaysh al Fateh's constituent groups also claim to have taken control of turf.

Many of the images produced thus far are branded with each individual organization's logo, as well as the watermark for the Jaysh al Fateh coalition.

[Source: By Thomas Joscelyn, The Long War Journal, NJ, 28Jul15]

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small logoThis document has been published on 31Jul15 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.