PHOTO: Rebels attack a statue of former President Hafez al-Assad amid capture of Idlib


UPDATE 1330 GMT: Rebels now have full control of Idlib city, after a four-day offensive.

Opposition groups, including the Islamic Front bloc and the Ahrar al-Sham faction, announced the liberation on Saturday afternoon. Photographs are circulating of fighters in the Governor’s Palace, standing on a large poster of President Assad. Rebels are combing the city, looking for any regime troops holding out, but no resistance is reported.

Fighters reaching the city center:

Attacking a statue of former President Hafez al-Assad:


On captured T-62 regime tank, in front of the Municipality Building:

In “Security Square”, outside the headquarters of regime agencies:

Outside the National Hospital:

Claims are circulating that regime forces executed some prisoners in the Security Branch before withdrawing.

The Syrian air force is retaliating with bombing of the city.

Rebels had tried to evacuate civilians from the city as they advanced, but tens of thousands still remain at risk. Civil defense units are trying to move more people to safety.

Residents fleeing:

Fighting is now to the south of the city in the village of Mastoumeh, along the route to Aleppo and Latakia. Rebels have claimed control of Mastoumeh hill and are attacking the downhill regime base near the village.

State news agency SANA continues to proclaim, “Army Continues Clampdown, Confronts Terrorists Infiltrating Idleb City“. Citing a “military source”, it says that the army had repositioned forces “to face thousands of terrorists crossing border from Turkey.

INITIAL POST: Rebels advanced on Friday through much of Idlib city, taking control of the northern section and parts of the west, according to local sources, activists, and videos.

The offensive against Idlib, the capital of Idlib Province in northwest Syria, began on Wednesday. Thousands of fighters from several rebel factions, under the oversight of the Jaish al-Fatah operations room, are involved, as is the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra.

Having cut off Idlib completely from the north and almost fully from the south — thus preventing regime reinforcements — opposition fighters moved quickly through the north of the Idlib yesterday. Videos showed civilians who have remained in Idlib, which had a pre-war population of 165,000, warmly greeting the rebels.

The rebels took the university sector and the cemetery on Wednesday and the industrial area in the east of Idlib on Thursday. On Friday, they reportedly claimed points inside the city, including the gold market, the Clock Tower, the museum, and key roundabouts.

Having claimed on Friday that there was no problem with reinforcements — showing the Governor of Idlib Province with troops — State news agency SANA is silent about Friday’s fighting inside the city, instead insisting that “tens of terrorists were killed” in the surrounding area.

However, a pro-Assad site has acknowledged that “the militants…made substantial gains in the northern and western axes of Idlib City”, declaring that “Zero Hour Has Arrived”.

The opposition in the Hara area of north Idlib:

Fighters in the al-Dabeit section in the west:

Rebels moving civilians out of the city:

A fighter returns to his home and is reunited with his family:

The prominent activist Hadi al-Abdallah visits the Clock Tower:

Regime Supporters Apparently Using Fake “General Idriss” Twitter Account to Discredit Idlib Victory

Regime supporters apparently have attempted to discredit the rebel victory in Idlib through a fake Twitter account in the name of General Salim Idriss, the former head of the opposition Supreme Military Council:

An Idriss acknowledgement of the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra would damage the opposition emphasis on a broad movement that is not “extremist”.

However, the Twitter account is likely a fake.

In August 2014, after a purported tweet that “Saudi Arabia…is only destroying Syria and it’s [sic] people’s lives”, the office of Idriss said the General did not have either a Twitter or Facebook account.

The opposition Syrian National Coalition reiterated that statement this evening:

UN’s Top Humanitarian Official: Aid Blocked to 30 of 33 Locations; Number of Besieged Syrians Doubles

The UN’s top humanitarian official, Baroness Amos, has said that the Assad regime is blocking UN aid to 30 of 33 areas where access has been requested.

Amos told the Security Council that the situation has “dramatically worsened”: “The inability of this Council, and countries with influence over the different parties at war in Syria, to agree on the elements for a political solution in the country means that the humanitarian consequences will continue to be dire for millions of Syrians.”

The official said that, during March, the number of Syrians living in “besieged” areas has doubled from 212,000 to 440,000, Nearly 5 million Syrians live in hard-to-reach locations.

Earlier this month, the Syrian American Medical Society said the UN was defining “besieged” far too narrowly. The Society put the number of those under siege at 650,000.

Amos repeated the finding of a recent study that life expectancy has fallen 20 years since the conflict began in March 2011. Unemployment is at nearly 60%, and almost two-thirds of the population live in extreme poverty,

The UN has appealed for $8.4 billion for 2015 for the crisis, but less than 10% of the target has been raised. The funding gap has forced aid agencies to cut food rations by 30%.