Syria Developing: Insurgents Begin Major Offensive To Take Ariha, South of Idlib, in Northwest

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UPDATE 1730 GMT: An overhead view of the demolition of the regime-held “Yellow Mansion” on a hilltop on the south edge of Ariha:

Islamic Front commander Abu Issa inspects the tunnel under the Yellow Mansion:

Storming the Mansion after the blast:


UPDATE 1330 GMT: Sounds of the fighting from a vantage point above Ariha:


UPDATE 1100 GMT: While the Islamic Front attacks Ariha, other factions and Jabhat al-Nusra are trying to tie up regime forces through shelling of positions such as the “Brick Factory” and the Mastoomeh camp. Suqoor al-Sham fighters have destroyed a BMP armored vehicle with ammunition and a Shilka anti-aircraft system moving from Mastoomeh towards Ariha.

Shelling of Mastoomeh camp:


Insurgents have begun an offensive in Idlib Province in northwest Syria, seeking to take the town of Ariha.

The opposition already holds much of the province, including a line from Khan Sheikhoun from the south along a major highway through Ma’arat Numan and approaching Ariha. Last year the insurgent advance threatened to move into Ariha, just south of Idlib city, but the opposition instead consolidated the territory it had taken.

Insurgent capture of Ariha would threaten regime supply lines to Latakia Province in western Syria on the Mediterranean.

The offensive began on Thursday, but a media blackout was only lifted on Friday morning. Insurgents fired more than 500 shells and rockets, and they detonated an underground bomb which destroyed the regime-held “Yellow Mansion” on a hill on the southern edge of Ariha (see map):

The tunnel system inside the hill underneath the Yellow Mansion:

Insurgents are claiming that they have already taken regime checkpoints and destroyed a tank outside Ariha.

Islamic Front video of the firing of an “elephant” rocket:

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Idlib Province is going down. What’s Next in the north?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Ariha is gone in a relatively short time, releasing more fighters.

    After that we’ll see the fall of Abu Duhor and all smaller regime positions in the Idlib area. That will leave large forces available to take the provincial capital itself though a portion of these could move on Aleppo.

    ASSAD’S ALEPPO PROBLEM

    With Idlib down we’ll probably see a multi-pronged offensive aimed at Aleppo with a second in Latakia simultaneously or later. .Al Safira must go as part of any Aleppo offensive but if ISIS attempts to take it, rebels should let the two Bad Guys fight it out there and concentrate on cutting off and taking other parts of the city.

    Once all of Idlib Province falls, regime forces in Aleppo are doomed if they stay and may face three different enemies there. Unless Assad withdraws his forces for use elsewhere, he will lose them. However for many reasons he can’t afford to abandon the city.

    1. Many loyalist civilians live there.

    2. Many NDF won’t move on to fight elsewhere if needed.

    3. The morale burden on loyalists and regime forces (especially those cut off and under similar siege elsewhere) would be huge

    4. The combined rebel forces unleashed in both provinces would be enormous though some would have to stay to protect Aleppo from ISIS. However they’d have help from both the Kurds and from Coalition Aircraft since in this case it suits Obama’s interests.

  2. Lets not get ahead of ourselves here. The offensive hasn’t even made any significant gains, much less taken Idlib, Aleppo and Damascus in one fell swoop :)

    So Mastumah and the Brick Factory are still in regime hands? Did they reclaim them or were the previous news about their fall published on EA false?

    • Ivan,

      I’ll check the entry to clarify — insurgents attacked Mastoomeh and Brick Factory to tie up regime forces, not to capture them.

      Scott

      • I could be wrong, and this might have been just in the comments, but I’m referring to a few months earlier when JAN attacked Idlib city and took Mastoumah. Reports then circulated that the Brick Factory was abandoned.

        • Ivan,

          That’s my recollection as well. There has been chatter periodically — since 2012, I think — that Brick Factory was falling to insurgents. New York Times even featured the location in an article, when they could still get correspondents into battlefronts in Syria. But the insurgents never claimed the position.

          Scott

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