PHOTO: Rebel armored vehicle near regime’s Mastoumeh camp, south of Idlib, April 2015


Rebels have launched an offensive to capture the last major regime position south of Idlib city in northwest Syria.

The Jaish al-Fatah coalition began the attack on the heavily-fortified Mastoumeh camp with a vehicle-borne bomb and with ground assaults on the village and hill, both also called Mastoumeh.

By Sunday night, the village, hill, and regime checkpoints had been captured, but fighting continued for the camp.

Footage of the battles on Sunday, with journalist Hadi al-Abdallah watching:

And moving with fighters on the frontline:

The vehicle bomb that launched the operation — explosion at 1:21:

The Mastoumeh position has been isolated since the fall of the provincial capital of Idlib on March 28, followed last month by the regime’s defeat at the nearby Qarmeed (Brick Factory) camp.

Some of President Assad’s elite forces are reportedly inside the camp, sent to prevent its fall but now unable to escape after Mastoumeh was cut off from the regime’s positions to the west following rebel advances across Idlib Province.

Journalist al-Abdallah reports from an overrun regime checkpoint near Mastoumeh village:

Syrian news agency SANA made no reference to the fighting this morning, but finally claimed — from a “military source” — this afternoon that army units were preventing terrorists from infiltrating al-Mastouma village, inflicting heavy losses upon them”.

Rebels in nearby Muqbalah village (see map) after regime forces retreated:

Activist: Islamic State Still on Edges of Ancient City of Palmyra

An activist has told Syria Direct that the Islamic State has been pushed out of Palmyra by Syrian forces, but is still on the edges of the ancient city in Homs Province.

The militants advanced rapidly on the city, prominent as a traveler’s stop in the Syrian desert in the Roman era, on Wednesday as they seized territory to the east. By the weekend, they had taken buildings in the northern section.

However, Khaled al-Homsi, a member of the Palmyra Local Coordinating Committees, said on Monday, “IS has withdrawn from the northern neighborhoods in Palmyra, with life gradually returning to normal and some shops re-opening.”

Homsi said, the fighters “have settled in the al-Maalaf and al-Amariya areas [north of the city] and some of the groves in the southeast vicinity of Palmyra”.

Homs Governor Talal al-Barazi insisted on Sunday that Syrian forces recaptured al-Amiriya.

Syrian forces are trying to push the Islamic State out of the T-3 pumping station and the al-Hayl gas field 20 km (12 miles) east of Palmyra.

US-Led Coalition Drops “Useless” Leaflets Threatening Islamic State in Raqqa

Activists report that warplanes of the US-led coalition dropped leaflets on Sunday in the Islamic State’s center of Raqqa in northern Syria.

“We can raid you wherever you are at any time at any place and you have no power to stop us….The hour of your destruction has approached and the zero hour has become very near,” warned the fliers, written in colloquial Syrian rather than formal Arabic.

But the activists are puzzled that the leaflets are poorly-designed to have their desired effect.

Abu Ibrahim a-Raqawi of Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silent said the messages were “written in a dialect, but not the Raqqa dialect”:

I don’t know what the benefit of dropping leaflets like this is.

They are amusing because it is impossible that a killer like an IS fighter would be convinced by these words — unless the coalition meant to send a message to the civilians that it thinks are IS’s popular base, which is an incorrect idea.

Opposition Coalition: We Will Not Attend Cairo Conference

The opposition Syrian National Coalition has said that it will not attend the forthcoming Cairo conference discussing a political resolution of the crisis.

Vice President Hisham Marwa said a conference that does not include “all the components of the Syrian opposition will fail to bring about an acceptable solution”.

Marwa continued:

We really hope that the conference produces tangible results that conform with the principles of the Syrian revolution and its objectives of ending tyranny and dictatorship. However, considering the way these meetings are conducted, we are certain they will not yield significant results.

The Coalition refused to attend consultations with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura last week, saying that he was trying to divide the opposition by only inviting them individually rather than as a bloc.

De Mistura has been criticized by the opposition and rebels for his statement that President Assad must be “part of the political solution” and for a proposal that freezes only fighting in Aleppo city and not throughout northwest Syria.

Rebel Leader Alloush Condemns Illegitimate Assad Regime, Promises Stability After President’s Downfall

Jaish al-Islam leader Zahran Alloush has used a lengthy interview to contrast the legitimacy of the rebel movement with the illegitimacy of an Assad regime under the oversight of Iranians.

Alloush used the recent “graduation” of 1,700 Jaish al-Islam fighters, within a few miles of Assad’s palace in Damascus, to show “a trained force, organized and operating in the institutional framework, [which] has a capacity that enables it to stand in the face of the Assad regime”.

He contrasted that with an Assad now reliant on Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces and embarrassed when Jaish al-Islam responded to Syrian air attacks with rockets on Damascus.

Alloush offered assurances about stability after the fall of Assad: “The preservation of state institutions is a priority for us, these institutions are the property of the people, and one of the reasons for our fight is a system that has demolished these institutions.”

Video: Rebels Destroy Regime Armored Vehicle Near Jisr al-Shughour

Rebels destroy a moving regime armored vehicle close to Kufayr, near the opposition-held city of Jisr al-Shughour in Idlib Province in northwest Syria:

A rebel coalition captured Jisr al-Shughour, important because of its position on the highway between Aleppo and Latakia on the Mediterranean, on April 26. President Assad has promised that his forces will return to the city to rescue more than 200 soldiers trapped in the National Hospital; however, the Syrian military has been unable to make any progress in areas such as Kufayr.