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Rebels push Assad forces out of Idlib

Atlanta (CNN) Cell phone video captured the release of dozens of men from a prison in Idlib, Syria.

They praised God and kissed their liberators as they streamed out of their cells.

Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian government had been holding them — until Ahrar al-Sham fighters set them free this weekend.

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The hard line rebels have formed an alliance with other Sunni groups, including the Al Qaeda linked Nusra Front.

The so-called Army of Fatah Movement took control of Idlib after a four day offensive against government troops.

Video shows residents welcoming them with open arms. “God is the greatest!” one man shouts. “This is the best joy I have experienced in my life. I have been craving for this joy for three years. May God save you. And may this joy spread all over the country.”

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The scars of civil war are evident down most every street corner in Idlib.

Crumbled buildings, burnt out cars and symbols of change as insurgent fighters stomp on the head of a damaged Assad statue.

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For now, Abu Zaid is in charge. “Civilians are now in safe hands,” he said. “Mujahideen is working on security and returning families to their homes.”

The rebels have vowed not to monopolize power in Idlib — but have announced the city will be ruled according to Islamic Sharia law.

One Idlib resident said, “The situation is very, very excellent. And thank God we have gotten rid of these unjust rulers who were making life miserable. They choked us and now the joy is coming, not just from our heart, from every part of our body.”

Idlib is an important capture. It’s just 30 kilometers from the Turkish border and next to a strategic highway linking Damascus to Aleppo and the coastal province of Latakia.

The fall of Idlib marks only the second time Assad has lost control of a provincial capital during this four year war.

The other was Raqqa — now home base for ISIS.

Idlib 4

Monitoring groups say the Syrian military is not letting go without a fight. Warplanes have staged a number of raids since its capture — killing at least 126 insurgents.

Rebels also claim the government launched a chlorine gas attack.

Social media video shows the ultimate victims of all this volatility — the children of Syria.

Written and produced by: Ben Bamsey for “CNN Newsroom.”

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