Jihadists claim victory in battle for one of the last regime-controlled towns in Idlib

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Jihadists in the Jaysh al Fateh (“Army of Conquest”) coalition are claiming victory in the town of Ariha, one of the Assad regime’s last strongholds in the province of Idlib.

The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, plays a leading role in the Jaysh al Fateh alliance. Al Nusrah posted the map shown above on one of its official Twitter feeds earlier today. The map, showing the jihadist-controlled territory in green, was accompanied by a short note saying that Ariha had fallen. A map posted just hours earlier showed the Assad regime in control of much of the town.

Similarly, the official Twitter feed for Ajnad al Sham, another member group in Jaysh al Fateh, has announced that Ariha is now under the mujahideen’s control. Ahrar al Sham, an al Qaeda-linked group that helps lead the alliance, has also posted videos and other images from the fighting.

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An image posted by Ahrar al Sham earlier today advertised the offensive, which successfully pushed the Assad regime’s forces out of the town in a matter of hours. The photo can be seen on the right.

While the ground assault was a swift success, Jaysh al Fateh’s forces began laying the groundwork for the battle days, or even weeks, ago. The jihadists cleared out pockets of regime fighters around the town earlier this month. And in the past few days they have shelled regime forces inside the town from the high ground outside of it.

The jihadists’ capture of Ariha is the latest in a series of stunning advances since late March. The Al Nusrah Front, Ahrar al Sham and several other groups announced that they had established Jaysh al Fateh shortly before they stormed the city of Idlib, which served as the province’s capital. Assad’s forces were routed in a matter of days.

One month later, in late April, they took the city of Jisr Al Shughur, which was considered another key city in the battle for control of the province. The coalition of groups that captured Jisr Al Shughur differed a bit from Jaysh al Fateh, calling itself the “Battle of Victory.” However, the Al Nusrah Front and Ahrar al Sham were key to this grouping.

In mid-May, Jaysh al Fateh overran the Al Mastoumah military camp in Idlib. Regime fighters reportedly retreated from the camp to Ariha and its surrounding areas, making today’s defeat all the more important.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • avram davis says:

    Does anyone have any update on the govt/shia attempt to retake ground in Iraq? I can find no info at all. Thanks.

  • m3fd2002 says:

    I’d take whatever DebkaFile says with a grain of salt. All though I do believe they have good sources within Israeli military/intelligence, they tend to project (hyperbole) a bit. But, they do on occasion have the unique information. I view it as an editorial piece.

  • Frank Dunn says:

    When will Assad flee Syria? He surely won’t remain in his Damascus bunker until the bitter end, not when he can spend his remaining days & wealth in Iran or on the French Riviera. Should LWJ.org begin a countdown clock or perhaps a lottery contest to pick the date that Assad departs in his private jet?

    More important question is how will the Europe and the U.S. handle the millions of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and the other countries engulfed in Sunni Vs Shi’a wars? And, if Russia seizes more of Ukraine, where will tens of thousands of Ukrainians find shelter? Tragic time with no simple solutions.

  • Tom McCabe says:

    Isn’t it already?

    Be aware that DEBKA tends to be sensationalist.

  • mike merlo says:

    great news

  • mike merlo says:

    @ m3fd2002

    DEBKA is worth reading as long as one doesn’t get lazy & rely on them as a sole source. They’re good sometimes about showing up with information 1st before others do but is later followed up on by others. I read something on DEBKA a few days ago that they also said was unconfirmed that an explosion took place in Tehran claiming hundreds of lives & that one also took place in Isafhan(spelling?). When I checked back a few hours later the the ‘story(claim?)’ had been removed’

  • mike merlo says:

    @ avram davis

    these ‘guys’ do ok but like everybody else their info/data has tendency to exaggerate the Iraqi Government/Security Forces claims



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