More than 100 people, including 20 rebels, have been killed in a battle for Khan Sheikhoun as part of a fight for the control Syria's main north-south road, a rebel fighter told the Guardian.
The rebel, who gave his name as Colonel Riyad of the Khan Sheikhoun brigade, was speaking to Mona Mahmood via Skype.
He said the army had sent reinforcements from the south in an attempt to retake the strategically vital town of Maarat al-Numan, 20km north of Khan Sheikhoun. Riyad said:
The Syrian army sent a reinforcement convey of tanks, armoured vehicles, rockets and soldiers from Hama. It has been under heavy siege from the Free Syrian Army. So far they have only travelled 10km along the route.
We are combating warplanes with light weapons. Our problem we don’t have anti-aircraft guns. The international community has failed to supply anti-aircraft guns under the pretext that they will be fall into the hands of the terrorists. We need hundreds of rockets to protect civilians.
The Syrian airforce are bombing Khan Sheikhoun to try to ease the pressure on the reinforcement convoy. Heavy shelling has hit mostly civilian areas. FSA fighters are hiding in civilians homes to launch guerrilla warfare against the Syrian army.
The Syrian army do not want to lose the control of the highway that connects Khan Sheikhoun and Ma'arat Al-Numan. If they lose the road they will lose control on Aleppo and the north of Syria.
The convoy is progressing slowly with aerial backup. We have more than 3,000 fighting alongside the Khan Sheikhoun brigade. They include the Jund Al-Haq, Ahrar Al-Sham, Ahfad Al-Rasoul and Al-Farouq brigades. They have all come help the fighters in Khan Sheikhoun.
More than 110 people have been killed in the last five days because of the heavy shelling, another 150 people have been wounded. The Free Syrian Army have lost 20 martyrs and 30 rebels have been wounded. The most seriously injured are taken to Turkey for treatment.