Three hours after the militants from Jaysh Al-Fateh launched a full-scale assault on the Syrian Government stronghold of Ariha, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the National Defense Forces (NDF) have withdrawn all military personnel from the city to the village of ‘Umm Al-Jorouz along the Syrian Armed Forces main supply route in the Idlib Governorate.
The loss of the Qarmeed Camp (Brick Factory) and the town of Al-Mastoumah left the Syrian Armed Forces exposed to a flank maneuvering from the militants of the Syrian Al-Qaeda group “Jabhat Al-Nusra” and their allies from Jund Al-Aqsa and Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham; this resulted in the inevitable withdrawal from Ariha and the nearby town of Kafr Najd to the east of the city.
With Ariha under their control, the militants from Jaysh Al-Fateh have built a rather large buffer-zone from the provincial capital of Idlib; if they can capture the remaining positions of the Syrian Armed Forces in the province, they can attempt to retake the ground they lost to the latter during their failed offensive in northern Hama last fall.
For the Syrian Armed Forces in Idlib, it appears that the Syrian Arab Army’s Central Command is no longer making the recapture of the provincial capital a top priority, as they have shifted their attention to eastern Syria, where the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) are pressing their positions.
Despite the premature claims that the Syrian Armed Forces are “falling apart”; the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) still remains in control of all but two provincial capitals in Syria and they are on the move in the Latakia and the Rif Dimashq Governorates – there is still a lot of fighting left.