The towns of Nubul and Zahra constitute strategically valuable areas given their close proximity to a highway which links the major Syrian city of Aleppo and Syria’s frontier with Turkey. The towns populations are predominantly Shia and have remained behind the Syrian regime. Given their distance from Damascus they have proved quite difficult for the regime to defend. This was one of the reasons that the regime allowed the remainder of the Free Syrian Army opposition fighters holed up in the Old City of Homs to leave that city unmolested by the besieging army there into the surrounding countryside earlier last year, because their comrades in the Aleppo region had agreed to relent their siege of those two towns. That incident demonstrated, among other things, the strategic importance of that town to the regime and the various opposition groups.
The year which has just concluded aptly demonstrated the increasing risk…
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