Syrian Rebels Continue Advance on Government-Held Cities
29 May 2015 – The Army of Conquest, the Syrian rebel coalition that includes Jabhat al-Nusra as well as more moderate elements, seized Ariha yesterday in northwestern Syria. The town was the last holdout of Assad regime forces in Idlib province, but those troops and a large contingent of Lebanese Hezbollah fighters have withdrawn from Ariha, reports the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Farther east, Kurdish militias have begun to challenge the Islamic State near Tel Abyad.In Palmyra, the Islamic State continues to consolidate its control of the city, which it seized from Assad regime forces last week. After executing soldiers and government workers, it has now begun trying to win public support by restoring service for local utilities. Government airstrikes have helped shift support toward the Islamic State, reports the New York Times.
According to one former resident who is still in contact with family in the city, the Islamic State is “treating Palmyra’s people as if they were captured as human shields by the regime.” A new U.N. resolution approved yesterday, prompted by the Islamic State’s destruction of ancient artifacts in Iraq and recent seizure of ruins in Palmyra, encourages the prosecution of people destroying or illegally trading in antiquities.