At least 100 soldiers loyal to the Bashar al-Assad regime and 80 Islamic fighters, including members of the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusrah Front, were killed in a two-day fight for the Wadi al-Deif military base in Syria, reports a U.K.-based watchdog group.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) also reports that Islamic insurgents overran the smaller Hamidiya base, southwest of Wadi al-Deif, adding that the jihadist militants were able to seize large amounts of heavy weapons and ammo from the regime troops.
Members of the al-Nusrah Front (the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria), Ahrar al-Sham, and Jund al-Aqsa were among the Islamic battalions who captured the two bases, which are located in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib.
According to The Long War Journal, units from the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army collaborated with the Islamic militants.
“Free Syrian Army units have fought alongside the Al Nusrah Front and allied jihadist groups since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, and continue to do so to this day,” reports the Journal. “Over the past several months, Free Syrian Army units have aided Al Nusrah and other groups on several fronts.”
Breitbart News’ Matthew Boyle reported last week that House Speaker John Boehner’s $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill allocates $500 million for training and equipping “appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian opposition,” which may include members of the Free Syrian Army.
The House and Senate passed the spending measure. President Obama is expected to sign it into law this week.
About 200 regime soldiers and officers were taken captive by the jihadist rebels, according to the watchdog group.
The Observatory reports that Islamic fighters seized “large amounts” of heavy weapons and ammo, including two tanks.
In a video uploaded on Dec. 15, Ahrar al-Sham displays weapons, including howitzers and tanks the group claims to have seized during the battle, notes the Journal.
“The Al Nusrah Front claimed it committed significant resources during the fighting at Wadi al Daif. Yesterday, the jihadist group stated on its official Twitter page for Idlib operations that its fighters stormed Wadi Al Daif with 12 tanks,” reports The Long War Journal. “Other tweets detail the use of 23-millimeter cannons as well as mortars.”
“Control of the two bases is critical for the Syrian military as they straddle the M5 highway, the main road from Aleppo to Damascus. The military uses the highway to supply its forces in Aleppo, Idlib, and other areas in northern Syria,” the article adds.
The regime forces and rebels have been fighting over the two bases since October 2012.
Losing the military camps “is a significant blow to the Syrian army, which had managed to hold on to them for more than two years, repelling repeated attacks by an array of opposition groups,” reports The Associated Press.