A coalition of Islamist groups led by the Nusra Front have taken over the government’s military base at Qarmeed, reducing President Assad’s control over the Idlib province to only Msaibin where it has a military base. The fall of the city of Arisha is a blow to the regime in Damsacus because it has always been under its control since the crisis started in 2011.
Reports from the official Syrian news agency, SANA, have not confirmed that the city has been lost to the rebels and only cited that “scores of terrorists” were killed during an attack launched by government forces in Idlib. The opposition Masar Press agency claimed that 135 soldiers were killed during the attack on Qarmeed and the base is now under the control of the Islamists.
The attack on Qarmeed came two days after rebel groups took control of the strategic town of Jisr al Shughour; thereby cutting the mainland overland supply route to military bases in Idlib.
Abu El Khir El Edilbi, a Nusra commander, told Masr that they were able to take over Qarmeed with the help of suicide bombers and artillery shells. The rebel offensive led by Nusra included Ajnad al Sham, an Islamist group based in Hama province, the Rahman Brigade, affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Haqq Brigade, local Islamist group from Idlib province.
Soldiers that escaped the attack are reported to have fled to nearby Msaibin military base which is about two miles away from Arisha. It is expected to be the rebel’s next target.
Al Nusra has become a major player in the Syrian war. It broke away from the Islamic State in spring 2014 and is al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.