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Idlib Governorate (Arabic: مُحافظة ادلب‎ / ALA-LC: Muḥāfaẓat Idlib) is one of the fourteen governorates (provinces) of Syria. It is situated in northwestern Syria, bordering Turkey. Reports of its area vary, depending on the source, from 5,933 km²[1] to 6,097 km².[2] The Governorate had a pre-war population of 1,464,000 (2010 estimate). The provincial capital is Idlib. Since 2011, the Governorate was taken over by rebel militias, controlling it since. In 2017, the governorate territory came under the nominal control of the Syrian Salvation Government, with Tahrir al-Sham becoming the dominant militia in the region.

Idlib Governorate

مُحافظة ادلب
Map of Syria with Idlib highlighted
Map of Syria with Idlib highlighted
Coordinates (Idlib): 35°42′N 36°42′E / 35.7°N 36.7°E / 35.7; 36.7Coordinates: 35°42′N 36°42′E / 35.7°N 36.7°E / 35.7; 36.7
Country Syria
Manatiq (Districts)5
 • GovernorKheir Addin al-Sayed
 • Total6,097 km2 (2,354 sq mi)
 Estimates range between 5,933 km² and 6,097 km²
 • Total1,501,000
 • Density250/km2 (640/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+2 (EET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+3 (EEST)
ISO 3166 codeSY-ID
Main language(s)Arabic



The governorate is divided into five districts (manatiq):

These are further divided into sub-districts (nawahi).


Modern Syria (1946–2011)Edit

In early 1980s the Idlib Governorate was one of the focal points of the Islamist uprising in Syria. Jisr ash-Shugur was the scene of a mass killing by Syrian security forces in 1980. On 9 March 1980, against a background of anti-government protests across Syria, inhabitants of Jisr ash-Shugur marched on the local Ba'ath Party headquarters and set it on fire. The police were unable to restore order and fled. Some demonstrators seized weapons and ammunition from a nearby army barracks. Later that day, units of the Syrian Army Special Forces were helicoptered in from Aleppo to regain control, which they did after pounding the town with rockets and mortars, destroying homes and shops and killing and wounding dozens of people. At least two hundred people were arrested. The following day a military tribunal ordered the execution of more than a hundred of the detainees. In all, about 150–200 people were said to have been killed.[3]

Syrian Civil War (2011–present)Edit

The Idlib Governorate clashes (September 2011 – March 2012) were violent incidents involving the newly formed Free Syrian Army (FSA) and government-loyal forces, during which the FSA took control of Saraqib, Binnish, Sarmin, Ariha, Zardana, al-Bara and Taftanaz. This included the 10 March Battle of Idlib (2012), a government victory. This led to the April 2012 Idlib Governorate Operation in which the government unsuccessfully sought to regain control. A consequent cease-fire attempt lasted from 14 April to 2 June 2012. This was followed by the Idlib Governorate clashes (June 2012–April 2013), in which the FSA took or regained control of Salqin, Armanaz, Harem, Sarmin, Darkush, Kafr Nabl, Maarrat al-Nu'man and Taftanaz, while government forces maintained control over Jisr ash-Shugur, Fu'ah, Idlib city, Abu al-Duhur airbase and Khan Shaykhun and recaptured Ariha. The Siege of Wadi Deif military base from October 2012 through April 2013 was also broken.

The 2014 Idlib offensive was a series of operations conducted by the rebels against the Syrian Government. The clashes were mostly concentrated around Khan Shaykhun and on the highway towards Maarrat al-Nu'man, and resulted in rebel victory. In the March Battle of Idlib (2015), al-Nusra Front/Army of Conquest-led rebels retook Idlib city from government and Hezbollah forces.[4]

Funeral of suicide car bombing victims, 27 April 2017. The bombing killed at least 126 civilian evacuees from al-Fu'ah and Kafriya, including at least 80 children.

In the Battle of Maarrat al-Nu'man (2016) on 13 March 2016, fighters from the Salafist jihadist groups al-Nusra Front and Jund al-Aqsa launched an overnight attack against the FSA's 13th Division headquarters in the town of Maarrat al-Nu'man to crush local protesters and demonstrations.[5] The battle resulted in a victory for the jihadis. The October 2016 Idlib Governorate clashes were violent confrontations between Jund al-Aqsa and the Syrian rebel group the Ahrar al-Sham, the latter supported by several other rebel groups.

The Idlib Governorate clashes (January–March 2017) were military confrontations between Syrian rebel factions led by Ahrar al-Sham and their allies on one side and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (later as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham) and their allies on the other. After 7 February, the clashes also included Jund al-Aqsa as a third belligerent, which had re-branded itself as Liwa al-Aqsa and was attacking the other combatants. The battles were fought in the Idlib Governorate and the western countryside of the Aleppo Governorate.

The Khan Shaykhun chemical attack took place on 4 April 2017, on the town of Khan Shaykhun, then under the control of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).[6][7] The town was struck by an airstrike by government forces, which was followed by massive civilian chemical poisoning.[8][9] The release of a toxic gas, which included sarin, or a similar substance,[10] killed at least 74 people and injured more than 557, according to the Idlib health authority.[11] The attack was the deadliest use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war since the Ghouta chemical attack in 2013.[12]

The United Nations, the governments of the United States, United Kingdom, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, France, and Israel, as well as Human Rights Watch have attributed the attack to the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.[13][8][14][15] The Assad government denied using any chemical weapons in the air strike.[16] The Idlib Governorate clashes (July 2017) were a series of military confrontations between Ahrar al-Sham and Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham. During the clashes, Tahrir al-Sham attempted to capture the Bab al-Hawa Border Crossing.[17] As a result of the clashes, HTS took control of Idlib city, the border crossing, and most of the areas along the Turkish border in the Idlib Province. Clashes resumed in July 2017. In September 2017, the Syrian government and its Russian allies launched a new aerial campaign against rebel-held towns in Idlib, with multiple casualties.[18] A Turkish military operation in Idlib Governorate took place in October/November 2017.

As of August 2018, following the end of the Siege of al-Fu'ah and Kafriya, which had been government-held until July 2018, the governorate is almost entirely under the control of the Syrian rebels (primarily the National Front for Liberation, which has over 50,000 fighters) along with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Al-Nusra, with estimated numbers of fighters between 12,000 and 30,000).[19][20][21] In September 2018, a demilitarization zone was created on the front between the government and the Turkish-backed opposition, temporarily freezing the conflict.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Human rights in Syria. Human Rights Watch. 1990. pp. 16–17. ISBN 0-929692-69-1.
  4. ^ "Gulf allies and 'Army of Conquest". Al-Ahram Weekly. 28 May 2015.
  5. ^ "Division 13 evacuate most of its headquarters in the southern countryside of Idlib and clashes between them against Jabhat Al-Nusra and Jund al-Aqsa in Maarrat al-Nu'man area and tension prevails in the area". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. Retrieved 2016-03-14.
  6. ^ SOHRkhan (14 February 2017). "اشتباكات هيئة تحرير الشام وتنظيم جند الأقصى تخلف نحو 70 قتيل بين الطرفين… والأخير يخسر 9 بلدات وقرى خلال الـ 48 ساعة الفائتة". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  7. ^ "Search for the dead begins in Idlib after Islamic State-linked brigade leaves for Raqqa". Syria Direct. 22 February 2017. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  8. ^ a b "Syria chemical 'attack': Russia faces fury at UN Security Council". BBC. 5 April 2017. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  9. ^ "Witness of Syria chemical attack gives graphic account as death toll climbs". 6 April 2017. Retrieved 10 April 2017. The warplane dropped three conventional explosive bombs – and a fourth that made little sound on impact but produced a cloud of smoke.
  10. ^ "Syria war: Sarin used in Khan Sheikhoun attack, OPCW says". BBC News. 2017-04-20. Retrieved 2017-04-20.
  11. ^ "Idlib town reels following major chemical attack: 'No rebel positions, just people'". Syria:direct. 5 April 2017.
  12. ^ "Syria 'toxic gas' attack kills 100 in Idlib province". Al-Arabiya & AFP. 4 April 2017.
  13. ^ Theodore Schleifer and Dan Merica. "Trump: 'I now have responsibility' when it comes to Syria". CNN. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  14. ^ "US attack on Syria: world leaders react". The Irish Times. 12 April 2017.
  15. ^ "An official source at Foreign Affairs Ministry expresses Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's strong support for US military operations on military targets in Syria". 12 April 2017.
  16. ^ "Syria's Assad says chemical attack '100 percent fabrication'". Agence France Presse. 13 April 2017.
  17. ^ "Fighting in Syria's Idlib province spreads to Turkey border crossing". The National.
  18. ^ Suleiman Al-Khalidi Russia, Syria intensify bombing of rebel-held Idlib, witnesses say, Reuters, 24 September 2017
  19. ^ "Syria: Who's in control of Idlib?". BBC News. 7 September 2018. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  20. ^ Joe Macaron (17 October 2018). "A confrontation in Idlib remains inevitable". Al-Jazeera. Retrieved 27 October 2018.
  21. ^ "A Jihadist Breakup in Syria". Foreign Affairs. 2017-09-15. ISSN 0015-7120. Retrieved 2017-09-25.

External linksEdit