Army drops leaflets to Syria border town

Army drops leaflets to Syria border town

BEIRUT - The Associated Press
Army drops leaflets to Syria border town

A Syrian soldier runs on the roof of a building in Aleppo. REUTERS photo

Syrian government aircraft scattered leaflets over the northern city of Idlib July 3, demanding rebels surrender, as the two sides battled for control of a highway the regime uses to transport weapons from a coastal stronghold to its troops fighting in opposition-held areas in the north.

Idlib holds strategic value to the rebels because it borders Turkey, which has been a critical source of weapons shipments and other supplies.

The battle for the highway leading from the mountainous Latakia province along the Mediterranean coast into the neighboring province of Idlib is crucial to rebel efforts to retain control of the villages and towns they hold.

They dynamited a highway bridge near the city of Jisr al-Shughour, and demolished other parts of the road, said Fuad al-Deek, an activist via Skype, based in Idlib province. Syrian troops fired mortar shells and conducted airstrikes to try dislodge the rebels, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists on the ground. Al-Deek said the rebels fighting for the Idlib highway were from two Islamic brigades, Suqour al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham. He said they were struggling to obtain weapons to keep up their fighting, despite a recent influx of arms from Gulf Arab states. One of the leaflets dropped in Idlib and addressed to foreign fighters read: “Abandon your weapons and return to your family.”

The battle for Idlib province is one of a series of flashpoints as government forces push their offensive against the rebels on several fronts.

The British-based Observatory also reported fighting in the northern province of Aleppo, in towns on the outskirts of Damascus as well as in the southern province of Daraa.

In the central city of Homs, Syrian troops backed by Hezbollah fighters were encircling the neighborhoods of Khaldiyeh and Bab Houd in the central city of Homs. Rebels have held those districts for the past year.