Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Rebels cut off Syrian government forces’ last supply lines between the northwestern Mediterranean coastal city of Latakia and Syria’s largest city Aleppo, in what has been described as the biggest loss suffered by President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces since 2011.
Latakia, which lies 111 miles (178 kilometers) west of Aleppo is a major government stronghold, and the supply line, which lies on a major highway, was used by the Syrian army to send reinforcements and ammunition to their forces in Aleppo, which since the start of the conflict has been fought over by a host of different rebel and jihadist groups as well as the army.
Rami Dalati, a member of the armed opposition group the Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) Military Command Higher Council, told Asharq Al-Awsat the rebels, comprised of the Jaysh Al-Fatah, a coalition of Jihadist groups, had successfully captured a number of strategic checkpoints used by the Syrian army on the Latakia–Aleppo highway.
This had now left a total of 25,000 government troops “essentially trapped” inside Aleppo, he said, adding that “this counts as the biggest military loss for the government in Syria since the beginnings of the conflict in 2011.”
Meanwhile, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict via a series of correspondents on the ground, said that Jaysh Al-Fatah had captured Syrian government troop positions around the city of Idlib, which lies roughly halfway between Latakia and Aleppo.
The Observatory said fighters from the extremist group the Al-Nusra Front, who are part of the Jaysh Al-Fatah coalition, captured the positions following clashes that took less than 24 hours.
Thirteen fighters from Al-Nusra and 32 Syrian government troops were were killed in the clashes, the Observatory added.
Al-Nusra posted on its Twitter account that it had successfully captured the positions, posting pictures of its fighters and those of others in the Jaysh Al-Fatah in the locations, with others of Syrian government troops fleeing their posts.
The official pro-government Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) quoted a military source saying that Syrian troops had indeed withdrawn from the positions around Idlib, but only to redeploy in areas more “appropriate for fulfilling their military objectives.”
The positions lie approximately 31 miles (50 kilometers) northeast of the city of Jisr Al-Shughour, which the Jaysh Al-Fatah captured in April and May in what was another major blow for Assad’s forces.
The forces have also captured areas just outside both Latakia and Hama, though government forces still remain firmly in control of both cities.