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Free Syrian army fighters take control of Maarat al-Numan strategic town in Idlib province 1010121


The conflict in Syria

Wednesday, October 10, 2012, 10:12 AM
Free Syrian army fighters take the control of Maarat al-Numan a strategic town in Idlib province.
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. 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.

"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, October 9, 2012.

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.

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