Idlib - In a major military development in northern Syria, the Syrian opposition said it had seized control of Wadi al-Daif and al-Hamdiyah, two of the regime's last major military strongholds in Syria's north.
The offensive, which started on Sunday night and lasted until Monday afternoon, resulted in the killing of scores of regime forces and the capturing of many others. Opposition sources also said that the regime's air force conducted air strikes on their positions, reportedly killing scores of people.
The fall of the two bases in the Idlib region is militarily very significant for the opposition groups that have been battling the regime for the control of this area for the past two years. The victory will give the opposition a military advantage in the Idlib region by cutting off a supply route for regime forces in the Hama region.
The opposition forces were able to overrun the regime forces in the first few hours of the battle. We used a new strategy in this offensive by using heavy weapons and tanks against the regime's positions.
It will also leave the regime without any major military presence in northern Syria, save for the centre of Idlib province, the town of Jisr al-Shoughour and the Abu Althohoor airport.
VIDEO: Syria rebel factions make gains in Idlib
The significance of this area lies in its strategic location in the middle of the Aleppo-Damascus highway. Opposition sources said the offensive was a joint operation between several armed groups.
Abu Bakr, a spokesperson for the fighters involved in this battle, told Al Jazeera that Jabhat al-Nusra was the "main fighting group that spearheaded the attacks on the regime's positions". Jabhat al-Nusra is among the main groups battling the Syrian regime in eastern Syria. Also involved in the weekend battle, Bakr said, were fighters with Ahrar al-Sham and the Free Syrian Army.
"The factors that made a big difference for us in this offensive were our use of anti-tank missiles that destroyed several of the regime's tanks and armoured vehicles. We also used our own heavy artillery and armoured vehicles," Bakr said, noting "the regime had tried to penetrate our positions using its tanks, but failed".
Al Manara al-Baida, the media arm of the al-Nusra Front, confirmed in an online statement on Monday that the offensive was a joint operation between the different opposition groups, noting that its fighters had destroyed five regime tanks and one armoured carrier.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement on Monday that at least 31 Syrian soldiers and 12 fighters from al-Nusra were killed during the last 24 hours of fighting.
Major Hasan Haj Ali, a commander of Suqour al-Sham, one of the opposition groups that participated in this offensive, told Al Jazeera that "the opposition forces were able to overrun the regime forces in the first few hours of the battle".
"We used a new strategy in this offensive by using heavy weapons and tanks against the regime's positions," he added.
Haj Ali also said that his fighters were in high spirits and conducted "mop-up operations" after the fighting, while the regime's forces withdrew to new positions in Baseeda and Maarhtat.
Source: Al Jazeera