Al-Nusra Front, Islamist militias launch ‘unprecedented’ assault on Idlib in bid to oust Assad’s forces
(SOURCE) BEIRUT — Syrian rebels led by al-Qaeda loyalists launched a major assault on the government-held city of Idlib Monday in a bid to consolidate their control over the northwest, a monitoring group said.
Rebels seized control of most of Idlib province early in the three-and-a-half-year-old civil war but troops have held out in the provincial capital, resupplied by air.
Fighters of al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front and Islamist rebel units attacked the city from all sides, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“Since dawn, fierce fighting has raged at army checkpoints all around Idlib city,” said the Britain-based monitoring group, which has a wide network of sources inside Syria.
At least five rebel fighters were killed, the Observatory said, adding that it had no immediate word on any army losses.
Rebels made a previous attempt to take the city earlier this year but Monday’s assault was “unprecedented, the biggest since the beginning of the revolt” in 2011, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.