Syrian rebels claim control of strategic town

Syrian rebels claim control of strategic town

Syrian opposition fighters have taken control of Maarat al-Numan, a strategic town in Idlib province on the highway linking Damascus with the commercial hub of Aleppo, activists say Al Jazeera reported.

"Regular forces pulled back from all of their checkpoints around Maarat al-Numan, except for one at the entrance of the town," Rami Abdel Rahman, a UK-based activist who gets information from a network of sources on the ground in Syria, said on Tuesday.

"This is a strategic location on the route from Damascus to Aleppo. All the regime reinforcements headed to Aleppo must pass through Maarat al-Numan."

Rebels forces said they were holding all but three checkpoints and the Local Co-ordination Committees, an activist network, said rebels were in control of the town.

In a video released by activists on Tuesday, about 20 fighters belonging to the Martyrs' Brigade could be seen gathered around a tank at a captured army checkpoint in Maarat al-Numan shooting into the air in celebration.

"This is your tank, O Bashar!" they cried out in reference to President Bashar al-Assad. Maarat al-Numan had originally fallen under rebel control on June 10, but it was retaken by the army in August.

Joshua Landis, director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at Oklahoma University, told Al Jazeera that Maarat al-Numan would represent an important win.

"It's one of the key provincial cities in this greater Idlib area that's south of the Turkish border, and it's been fought over for months," said Landis.

"We've seen the rebels, in the last month, have advanced into Aleppo, but the battle has been very dreary in Aleppo and much of the city has been destroyed."

Landis added that the opposition fighters have not yet "been able to convincingly defeat the Syrian army there".

Tuesday's reported rebel advance came after 48 hours of fierce fighting and army bombardments.

Al Jazeera is unable to independently verify reports of violence, as the Syrian government has placed strict restrictions on reporting, although our correspondent in Syria confirmed that warplanes bombed Maarat al-Numan.

Elsewhere in the country, soldiers moved into the central city of Homs and Reuters news agency reported that rebel suicide bombers struck at an Air Force Intelligence compound in Damascus used as an interrogation centre - the latest attack to bring the conflict close to Assad's power base.

Tension with Turkey

Meanwhile, NATO said it had drawn up plans to defend Turkey if necessary should the war in Syria spill over their border again, a week after five Turks were killed when mortars fired from Syria landed in a border town.

Fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces could be heard from the Turkish border on Tuesday following several days of clashes on the Syrian side.

"Assad...is only able to stand up with crutches," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a meeting of his ruling AK Party.

"He will be finished when the crutches fall away."

Erdogan, reacting to six consecutive days when shells fired from Syrian soil have landed on Turkish territory, has warned Ankara will not shrink from war if forced to act.

But his government has also stressed it would be reluctant to mount any big operation on Syrian soil and then only with international support.

It was not clear whether the shells hitting Turkish territory were aimed to strike there or were due to Syrian troops overshooting as they attacked rebels to their north.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in Brussels the 28-member military alliance hoped a way could be found to stop tensions escalating on the border.

"We have all necessary plans in place to protect and defend Turkey if necessary," he said.

Iran exports heavy water to several countries
Iran exports heavy water to several countries
Iran's actions reversible if parties fulfill their JCPOA commitments - Iranian Foreign Ministry
Iran's actions reversible if parties fulfill their JCPOA commitments - Iranian Foreign Ministry
Iran discusses Additional Protocol to Non-Proliferation Treaty
Iran discusses Additional Protocol to Non-Proliferation Treaty
Loading Bars
Latest
Iran ready to establish joint automobile company in Iraq
Kyrgyzstan’s public debt reaches USD 4 bln 887.46 mln
Turkey reports over 8,000 new COVID-19 cases
UK records another 55,761 coronavirus cases, 1,280 deaths
Israel has vaccinated over 2 mln people against COVID-19
Britain tightens borders to keep out new COVID-19 strains
Kazakhstan's national operator for main oil pipelines reports decrease in oil transport
Int'l community must condemn Armenia's actions against Islamic religious monuments - Azerbaijani MP
Azerbaijani Economic Council holds first meeting in 2021
Shusha's residents proud of seeing Azerbaijani president in Shusha city
Group supporting Russian export to Azerbaijan renders assistance for foreign trade transactions in 2020
President of International Judo Federation congratulates Azerbaijani president
Azerbaijan increases total volume of exported gas in 2020
European Gymnastics to focus on competitions planned for 2021
Azerbaijan's foreign trade balance remains positive in 2020
Export operations between Azerbaijan and Australia greatly increase
Azerbaijan establishes National Agency for Mine Clearance of Territories of Azerbaijan
Int'l structures willing to cooperate for 'Green Energy Zone' in Azerbaijan's Karabakh (PHOTO)
Georgia reveals volume of electricity imported from Azerbaijan
Georgian Hualing Group implements new construction project
Georgia outstripping European preferences for innovations in some areas - MasterCard
Afghanistan always supports Azerbaijan in its just cause - Ambassador
Azerbaijani, Finnish FMs discuss latest situation in region
Whole world to see rapid economic recovery in Azerbaijan's liberated lands - Russian MP
Azerbaijani, Russian FMs exchange views on tasks of Jan. 11 joint statement
Georgian Enguri HPP rehabilitation project carried out with support of EBRD and EU
President of Georgia, NATO Secretary-General to meet in Brussels
How can leaders of Muslim countries be friends with country that destroyed mosques? - President Aliyev
President Aliyev presented Holy Quran to Saatli Mosque
In near future, we will ensure restoration of Shusha in planned manner - President of Azerbaijan
Despite all pressures, phone calls and threats, I said that we would go to end - President Aliyev
I have come to Shusha using the victory road - President Aliyev
Great return begins, all work has begun - President of Azerbaijan
Uzbekistan, Tajikistan resume regular flights
Azerbaijan sees growth trend in car insurance segment
Azerbaijan’s PASHA Bank ends 2020 with big profit
Wells Fargo profit beats Wall Street estimates as credit costs fall
Citigroup quarterly profit beats estimates as loan loss provisions slow
OSCE Chairperson-in-Office appoints Special Representative for South Caucasus
Parliament's plan on steel sector to damage Iran's exports - Steel Producers Association
Azerbaijan announces starting date for COVID-19 vaccination
Port of Baku starts cooperating with Belgium-based int'l training center
Azerbaijani ombudsman visits persons detained during anti-terror operations in liberated lands
Most of Uzbekistan’s population to be provided with COVID-19 vaccine
International DOPPELMAYR to finish construction of Georgian ropeway
Demand for marble products of plant in Turkmenistan’s Akhal region increased
Azerbaijan shows video footage from Gasimli village of Aghdam district (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Uzbekistan reconstructs number of water supply and sewerage networks Bukhara region in 2020
Azerbaijan discloses amount of compensation paid to depositors of closed banks
New gas compressor station put into operation in Turkmenistan
Jewelry production plant launched in Uzbekistan’s Tashkent
Georgia sees increase in subsistence minimum
Establishing Nakhchivan corridor will add new artery to Middle Corridor - AIR Center
Georgian citizens to have high-quality COVID-19 vaccines
Azerbaijan confirms 494 more COVID-19 recoveries
First Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva: I am very happy to be in our liberated ancient city of Shusha (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Karabakh regional branch of Regional Development Public Association to operate in Shusha
Azerbaijan, Pakistan discuss prospects for development of military co-op
Azerbaijan's 11M2020 expenses for importing EU goods up
BMW aims to double fully-electric vehicle sales in 2021
Embassy of India organizes online business meeting to promote Indian Basmati rice (PHOTO)
Askar Mamin reappointed Kazakhstan's prime minister
Azerbaijani wagon washing station shows record performance following automation (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan reveals number of vessels repaired at 'Bibiheybat' Shipyard in 2020
Schoolchildren gain their first achievement in 2021 with Azercell’s support
Azerbaijan’s import of fruits, nuts down in 2020
FAO supports Uzbekistan’s Kashkadarya region during COVID-19 pandemic
Azerbaijani president, first lady visit building of executive power, house-museum of Bulbul in Shusha
Kazakhstan decreases goods import from Austria amid COVID-19
MP suggests Iran obtains its frozen assets in S.Korea via essential goods
CISCO increases number of services to be automated in Azerbaijan
Ukraine excludes Azerbaijan from list of dangerous countries due to COVID-19
Azerbaijani big bank’s capital up as of 2020
Passenger transport volumes plummet in Kazakhstan in 2020
WHO summarizes results of activities in Turkmenistan for 2020
Oil demand to be over 100 million b/d again by late 2022
Kazakhstan's Aktau port opens tender to buy accumulators
Fuel imports up in 2020 in Georgia
Iran plans to raise mortgage rate
EU, UNDP aim to help Georgian Bioars company in installing solar panels
UK economy pushed into reverse by November lockdown
Nearly 60,000 have fled Central African Republic violence - U.N
Azerbaijan's Ministry of Economy to contribute to turning Karabakh into prosperous region
Azerbaijani FM meets with ICESCO Director General
First quarter of 2021 to be characterized by downward tendencies in Georgia - Cushman & Wakefield
Kazakhstan launches manufacturing of fuel characterized by record low freezing point
PASTPRESENTFUTURE solo-show of Azerbaijani Aida Mahmudova presented in New York (PHOTO)
Iran shares details on Chinese bitcoin farm in Kerman province
Azerbaijan reveals electricity production data for 2020
Azerbaijan raises electricity generation at thermal power plants in 2020
Azerbaijani leading bank’s total assets up
Iran's power plants have sustainable condition for power generation
Iraq seeks Iran's investments in car manufacturing sector - Chamber of Commerce
Energy price inflation to see sharp rise in H12021
Azerbaijani manat significantly undervalued against US dollar, study finds
Precious metal prices up in Azerbaijan
Demand for foreign currency from individuals in Uzbekistan rises in 2020
Azerbaijan reveals data on sales through Azexport portal
Turkmen greenhouse complex names volumes of tomato production
Belarus issues 2020 data on oil import from Azerbaijan
All news