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Activists: Islamist Rebels Seize Syrian City Of Idlib

Images on social media purport to show Nusra Front rebels celebrating Idlib's capture from regime forces.

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Islamist rebels seized the city of Idlib from government forces on Saturday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

The Ahrar al-Sham, Jund al-Aqsa, and Nusra Front rebel groups captured the northwestern city of Syria after four days of violent clashes, the British-based organization said.

Photos and videos shared on social media purported to show rebels climbing the statue of the late Syrian president Hafez al-Assad and defacing it, while others destroy the Syrian flag.

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The strategically important city is close to a highway that links Damascus to the commercial capital Aleppo, and is also close to the coastal region of Latakia.

With a population of 100,000, Idlib has been the center of intense fighting between the government and the opposition groups for months. The broader Idlib province is also said to be controlled by Islamist insurgents. It is the second province to fall under rebel control after Raqqa was seized by ISIS figthers and subsequently targeted by U.S.-led airstrikes.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday told the Arab League summit in Egypt that he was angered and shamed by the failure to halt the Syrian civil war.

"Anger at observing the Syrian government, extremist and terrorist groups and terrorists relentlessly destroy their country," Ban said.

"Shame at sharing in the collective failure of international and regional communities to decisively act to stop the carnage that has afflicted the Arab brothers and sisters of Syria."

Ban promised to intensify diplomatic efforts to stop the clashes.

Mary Ann Georgantopoulos is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Mary Ann Georgantopoulos at maryann.georgantopoulos@buzzfeed.com.

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