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The province has a history of hostility to the regime. Idlib’s Muslim Brotherhood population rose up against Assad’s father, the late president Hafez Assad, in the late 1970s. Jisr al-Shughour itself came under heavy government bombardment in 1980, with a reported 70 people killed. Residents say the numbers were much higher.

The events proved a prelude to a 1982 three-week bombing campaign against the city of Hama that crushed a Sunni uprising there, killing 10,000 to 25,000 people, according to Amnesty International estimates.

Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Jisr al-Shughour and Selcan Hacaoglu in Altinozu, Turkey, contributed to this report.