In a statement released today by the head of the Revolutionary Military Council in Hama Captain General Abdulrazzak Ahmad Friejeh, the Free Syrian Army claim to have made significant territorial gains in the Idlib countryside.
The statement claims that yesterday’s assault by rebel forces has successfully captured military checkpoints in several villages in Jisr Ashoughour in the Idlib region.
The assault, which took place on 28th October, was in contravention of the proposed Eid al-Adha ceasefire, which in reality was not observed by either side.
FSA divisions from Idlib and Hama (including the Der’ al-Haq battalion and the FSA Special Forces battalion), coordinated for the offensive and 5 Syrian military checkpoints in the villages of Biksria, Khirbet Ajouz, Ibdama, Ein Albeida and Zeinia were reportedly been captured.
In the statement Captain General Freijeh claims that the attack “ended with a decisive victory and Assad’s gangs were completely defeated” and that the aforementioned villages have now been liberated. The General claims that the area was under the control of a Syrian Special Forces regiment known as Regiment 35.
The villages are strategically important, as they have opened up supply routes in the northern countryside of Lattakia, which according to the statement has resulted in liberating territory between the Turkish border and the town of Slenfeh.
The FSA claim that 270 government troops have been arrested along with several SAA (Syrian Arab Army) officers.
In a video released by the FSA, General Friejeh appears alongside equipment reportedly captured from the seized checkpoints including RPGs, 500mm machine guns and 5.5 mm armour piercing rifles reportedly imported from Russia.
I spoke to Mous’ab al-Hamadi, member of the Local Coordination Committee, and spokesperson for the Revolutionary Military Council in the Hama countryside about the assault.
How has the recent assault affected the battle for the region? How much of Hama can now be considered to be “liberated”?
Mous’ab al-Hamadi: Most of the Hama countryside is now practically under rebel control. We are based more than 1km away from the nearest SAA checkpoint. I am certain that regime troops can’t get more than 10 meters away from the checkpoint because FSA members will be there to take them down.
How strong were Assad’s forces in the area before the assault?
The only SAA forces in the region were the 35 Special Forces brigade and they were completely destroyed during the assault and the rebels seized all of its weaponry.
Did the SAA attempt to observe the ceasefire at all?
Not at all. We understand that the regime is attempting to buy time; these are false hopes because the FSA’s strength is growing every day.
Has there been a response from Assad’s troops or air force since the attack?
I don’t have exact details concerning that. But it’s a given rule now that the regime will heavily bombard any area that it loses.
Did the FSA suffer any losses in the assault?
Four FSA heroes were martyred in the battle.
How were the SAA soldiers captured and what does the FSA intend to do with them?
They initially escaped towards the mountains and bushes and the FSA members arrested them shortly afterwards. They are undergoing a fair trial and they will receive an appropriate and just punishment.
In the video above, General Friejeh explains his troops attack on Zeinia checkpoint in Idlib was in coordination with a FSA battalions from Hama and Idlib. He displays some of the captured weaponry and ammunition and explains the capture of 270 government soldiers. Later the captured soldiers are shown and one of the captured soldiers named Lieutenant Majd abu Hassoun reads out a prepared statement which says: “We were captured by the FSA during the Zeinia battle. My troops had very low moral because they weren’t convinced by orders to kill their own people.” The soldier also explains his commanding officer had escaped and that they were running low on supplies from central command.