Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have taken full control of the north-western rebel stronghold of Idlib after four days of heavy clashes with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), opposition activists said Wednesday.
AFP - The Syrian army has seized full control of Idlib following a four-day assault and rebel troops have fled, an activist in the northwest city told AFP on Wednesday.
The capture of Idlib comes two weeks after regime forces stormed the Baba Amr rebel stronghold in central Homs following a month-long blitz that activists said left hundreds dead.
"Since last night there has been no more fighting" in Idlib city, said Noureddin al-Abdo, reached by telephone from Beirut.
"The (rebel) Free Syrian Army (FSA) has withdrawn and regime forces have stormed the entire city and are carrying out house-to-house searches."
Crisis in Syria
The army launched its assault on the rebellious province near the Turkish border on Saturday, bombarding the city and outlying regions in a bid to root out armed insurgents.
"The FSA preferred to withdraw because everyone knows it cannot resist the army," Abdo said.
A pro-government newspaper, Al-Watan, reported the fall of the city on Tuesday, saying regime forces had managed to capture it in record time.
"A major operation launched three days ago in Idlib... ended in record time with army units wrapping up search operations during which dozens of armed men and fugitives were killed," the daily said.
Abdo said residents of Idlib city who had not managed to flee were hiding in their homes, "fearful that security forces will break in" and make arrests. "Those who escaped did so by night to avoid the snipers," he said.
Al-Watan said on Wednesday that government forces were pressing on with their offensive in Idlib province.
"The army is pushing ahead with its major operations in the towns of Maaret Masrin, Ariha and Maaret al-Numan as well as villages of Jabal al-Zawiya where they are pursuing armed groups in mountainous areas," it said.
Date created : 2012-03-14