Rebels' defences collapse in Syria's key Jisr al-Shughour city

GMT 01:31 2015 Monday ,11 May

Arab Today, arab today Rebels' defences collapse in Syria's key Jisr al-Shughour city

Syrian jets
Damascus - XINHUA

The Syrian army and allied fighters have made fresh progress on two main fronts in central and northern Syria against the al-Qaida-affiliated militant groups, where the rebels' defenses were reportedly collapsing, the official SANA news agency reported Sunday.

The Syrian air force carried out air strikes against the positions of the Nusra Front militants in the vicinity of the northern city of Jisr al-Shughour, destroying their weaponry and killing many of them, SANA said, adding that the ground troops also shelled the Nusra positions in that key city, bordering Turkey, recapturing a number of key points.

The military also killed tens of "terrorists" in the vicinity of the National Hospital of Jisr al-Shughour and at the southern and eastern entrances of the city, according to SANA.

Citing a military source, SANA said the defenses of the militants are collapsing in that city amid a "state of confusion" among the militants.

Meanwhile, the oppositional Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the clashes in Jisr al-Shughour, saying the rebels have stormed one building of the National Hospital, the last remaining government forces' position in the city.

It said the rebels staged a blast at the gates of the hospital earlier on Sunday, adding that the explosion was meant to facilitate the rebels' entry into the hospital.

The fresh battles come as the Syrian army has started a wide-scale offensive earlier this month to recapture Jisr al-Shughour, after losing that key city to the jihadist groups last month.

Jisr al-Shughour is located in the western countryside of Idlib, to the far northwest of the Syrian-Turkish borders. It's also adjacent to the al-Akrad mountain in the countryside of the coastal city of Latakia, hometown of President Bashar al-Assad.

The city bears a strategic importance as it lies on the international road connecting Latakia with the northern city of Aleppo, which makes it a link and compulsory conduit between the coastal cities and the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo, not to mention its proximity to the Turkish borders.

Experts said the city constitutes the gate of the coastal cities in Syria from the north and the demarcation line between the Syrian and Turkish borders.

They added that the rebels' control of Jisr al-Shughour gives them a launching pad for opening new fronts in the countryside of Idlib and Latakia, which would threat the military's supply lines between Aleppo and Latakia.

The predominantly-Sunni city was one of first areas to spiral out of the government control when the crisis began in 2011, following the killing of 140 Syrian soldiers back then. The Syrian forces later recaptured the town, before losing it again in April 2015.

In another key region, SANA said the Syrian army forces backed by the Shiite Lebanese Hezbollah group are moving forward in their offensive against al-Qaida affiliates in the mountainous Qalamoun region in the northern countryside of the capital Damascus along the eastern borderline with Lebanon.

After capturing the barrens of Assal al-Ward town on Friday, the Syrian army is moving forward to recapture the barrens of the al-Jubbeh town in that rugged region.

The Nusra Front and like-minded militants have suffered great losses as a result of the military operation there, said SANA.

Meanwhile, the Syrian official TV is airing national songs coupled with urgent news about what it called the military progress against the "terrorists" in Jisr al-Shughour and Qalamoun, where the battles are being fought against the extremist groups by Syrian army and Lebanon's Hezbollah fighters.

Earlier this week, the Nusra Front said it, allied with other jihadists, launched a large-scale offensive in Qalamoun to strip positions of the government forces and Hezbollah.

On Tuesday, Hezbollah's Secretary General Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah said that "Hezbollah would launch an operation in the Qalamoun region against Islamist rebels who are trying to enter the Lebanese territory."

Nasrallah said al-Qaida-linked militants in Qalamoun area constantly seek to take over Hezbollah positions, occupy Lebanese territories, and attack Lebanese soldiers and civilians.

Hezbollah has been fighting alongside the troops of President Bashar al-Assad against an array of jihadist groups in several hotspots across the country.

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