The battle started at 6 p.m. on Thursday. For several hours beforehand, the men of several Free Syrian Army units as well as members of the separate Salafi Ahrar al-Sham brigades operating in this town of 40,000 were busy preparing for the fight. The target was the Kaban checkpoint along the Aleppo-Damascus highway, one of four loyalist outposts ringing Saraqeb.

The young rebels in this town in central Idlib province had been preparing for days for what they feared would be an imminent attack by loyalist tanks and troops surrounding them.

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