Syrian opposition and ISIS continue Idlib battle
Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Clashes continued on Saturday between Syrian opposition forces and fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the areas of Saraqib and Idlib in northern Syria, according to reports by the UK-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR).
Maarouf Qaddour, a leading figure in the Syria Revolutionaries Front which is involved in the fighting, told Asharq Al-Awsat that he expected “the opposition factions to tip the scales in their favor quickly in Saraqib because ISIS is becoming weaker.”
Islamic Front activists announced they had taken control of the eastern district of Saraqib, killing dozens of ISIS fighters and besieging the leader of ISIS in the area, Abu Al-Baraa, in the center of the town.
The commander of the Hananou Brigade of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Hamza Habboush, told Asharq Al-Awsat he feared “members of ISIS in Saraqib would execute their prisoners as they did in other areas when they were defeated.”
The Syrian government lost control of Saraqib in November 2012. The town lies on the strategic highway between the cities of Hama and Aleppo, and is one of the last strongholds of ISIS in the Idlib region.
SOHR said a convoy of 200 fighters with tanks and armored vehicles from the opposition’s Islamist brigades and other factions were seen heading to Saraqib, where hundreds of ISIS men were stationed. The organization added that five opposition fighters were killed when their car was destroyed by a land mine planted by ISIS fighters.
Fighting has raged between different factions of Syria’s rebels since January 3, with the Islamic Front, Jaish Al-Mujahideen and Syria’s Revolutionaries Front on one side, and ISIS on the other. Activists and opposition figures accused ISIS of imposing its extremist ideology on areas it controls and of kidnapping and murdering other members of the opposition.
The Syrian National Council, a prominent opposition umbrella group, has issued a statement praising opposition fighters in Homs, where 45 men were killed trying to break the siege in the city. Some areas in Homs which are controlled by the opposition, especially the city’s old quarter, have been under siege by government forces for nearly two years.
Activists have reported a chronic shortage in food and medical supplies, and that aid agencies had been unable to enter the city. Yazan Homsi, an opposition activist, said “hunger and the despair of any help coming to those areas prompted a number of fighters to attempt a suicide mission to secure a route to evacuate the residents.”
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos arrived in Damascus on Saturday, on a scheduled two-day visit to Syria to supervise the response to the humanitarian catastrophe caused by the Syrian conflict.
Amos told the BBC that the humanitarian situation in the country was increasingly dire, saying on Sunday: “There are reports of people on the brink of starvation including in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp close to the center of Damascus.”