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Nov 7, 2012 | 18:14 GMT

Rebel Gains in Syria's North

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(Stratfor)
Rebel Gains in Syria's North

The ongoing battle for Maarat al-Numan exemplifies the shifting nature of the Syrian conflict. Located astride the critical M5 highway, the city plays an important role in the effort to break or maintain regime supply lines to Syria's largest city, Aleppo. Since Oct. 8, regime forces backed by armor, heavy artillery and aircraft have made repeated attempts to force their way through rebel lines to the city. But despite their considerable firepower, regime forces have yet to reach the city. In fact, the rebels in the area have managed to completely clear out regime troops from Saraqeb farther north. This effectively means that even if the regime manages to seize Maarat al-Numan, it still would not have cleared a continuous line of supply to Aleppo along the M5 highway. As part of the rebel push in the north, heavily armed rebels from five different units launched an attack Nov. 3 on the Taftanaz Air Base, one of the most important regime air bases in Idlib province that serves as a major hub for the Syrian military's helicopter operations. The attack came shortly after significant rebel gains in the north, including the seizure of Saraqeb and the advance on Harim, illustrating a shifting dynamic in the fighting and a clear erosion of the regime's strategic position in northern Syria. If the rebels can secure the north, including the strategic city of Aleppo, they will be positioned to mount an expanded offensive in Latakia province and connect with beleaguered units in the Orontes River Valley, cutting off Damascus from the sea.

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