MESOP : GENEVA TALKS DEAD – OFFENSIVE STARTS – As Talks Near Collapse, Rebel-Jihadist Offensives Launched


April 19 – 2016 – By Scott Lucas – As Syria’s political talks neared breakdown in Geneva on Monday, rebels and jihadists launched offensives in two more provinces against the Assad regime and its foreign allies.Rebels, Jabhat al-Nusra, and Jund al-Aqsa attacked in northern Latakia Province on the Mediterranean and in neighboring Hama Province in the al-Ghab Plain, which has been disputed since rebels claimed much of northwest Syria last spring.Announcing a joint operations room for the offensives, rebels said they were responding to breaches of the ceasefire by regime forces, including targeting of camps for displaced Syrians and shelling of residential areas. Factions included in the operations room include Ahrar al-Sham, Jaish al-Islam, and the Sham Legion.

Pro-opposition activists reported initial gains in both provinces.In Latakia, the offensive closed on Kinsibba, which had been taken by the Syrian military in February. In the al-Ghab Plain, Jund al-Aqsa and rebels moved into Khirbet al-Naqous, but there were disputed claims over whether an attack captured Hakoura.A pro-regime site said that the Syrian military cancelled further operations against the Islamic State in central Syria to move troops to the Latakia and Hama fronts. The regime forces had planned to advance along the highway from Palmyra in Homs Province, captured last month, to areas of Deir ez-Zor Province.Earlier this month, rebels and Jabhat al-Nusra began the pushback against regime-Russian-Iranian-Hezbollah offensives from last autumn. They regained some areas south of Aleppo city, including the town of al-Eis on the Aleppo-to-Damascus highway.