Syrian Islamist Insurgents Advance Around Idlib City

An alliance of Syrian Islamist rebels including al Qaeda's Nusra Front have overrun 17 defense posts around Idlib in an offensive to take the city from the army and allied militia, a monitoring group said on Thursday. It said 11 soldiers and allied militia as well as 17 insurgents were killed on Wednesday and violent clashes continued on Thursday. Syria's state news agency said on Thursday that government forces had "targeted terrorist gatherings in the surroundings of Idlib city". It said dozens of insurgents were killed and 11 vehicles were destroyed. Syria slid into civil war after a crackdown on peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011. The United Nations says more than 220,000 people have been killed.