Clashes ensue between HTS and Ahrar al Sham in Idlib

Clashes between Ahrar al-Sham and Hayy’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) continue to erupt in the city of Idlib and the western Aleppo countryside.

On 20th July, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the clashes between the two groups in Idlib and provincial areas have resulted in the deaths of approximately 40 civilians and militants in a 24 hour period.

Furthermore, reports indicate that clashes have occurred across Idlib Province, including the town of Saraqeb in the east, Dana and Sarmada in the northeast, and Bab al-Hawa on the Turkish border.

On Thursday evening, a mediation council consisting of Abu Muhammad al-Sadiq, Abdul Razaq al-Mahdi and Abu Hamza al-Masri condemned the HTS after the group withdrew from the mediation efforts and rejected the council’s judgement on the matter. The council issued a statement, claiming that the HTS’ rejection only made Ahrar al-Sham’s claims stronger.

Other groups have also tried to provide mediation. On Friday morning, Faylaq al-Sham and Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zinki, which announced its split from the HTS yesterday, offered to provide mediation between Ahrar al-Sham and the HTS, as well as deploying their own troops to contested areas to act as peacekeepers. However, by Friday afternoon, the two groups announced that their offer to provide mediation was off due to disagreements on how to achieve a peaceful outcome.

The leader of Ahrar al-Sham, Ali al-Omar, issued a video statement on Friday morning where he expressed defiance against the HTS. In the statement, he told that Ahrar al-Sham remains “resolute to defend the Syrian Revolution from the transgressors”. Omar also referred to the leadership of the HTS, Abu Jaber al-Sheikh and Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, as traitors and vowed to defend Ahrar al-Sham against the HTS.

Conflict between the two groups has been increasingly likely in recent months due to actions which suggest that Ahrar al-Sham aspires to form an alliance with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which would form a significant threat to the survival of HTS in the contested province of Idlib.

 

However, the two groups have clashes with increased frequency in growing years due to differences in their belief of how post-war Syria should look like. In recent weeks assassinations, skirmishes and hostile rhetoric has become common between the two groups.