The Syrian Islamic Council has accused Hayy’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) of abusing and attacking other factions in Idlib, following clashes between HTS and Ahrar al-Sham over the weekend.
A statement issued by the Council stated that these clashes was part of a campaign of aggression by HTS against the aims of the Syrian Revolution and those who have dedicated their lives to make the revolution a success.
The Council stated that Ahrar al-Sham did not commit any acts of aggression towards HTS. Furthermore, the statement demanded all groups and military formations affiliated with the HTS to separate from the group as it unjustly sheds the blood of Muslims.
The clashes in Idlib have come after increasing tensions between HTS and Ahrar al-Sham. In the early years of the conflict, both groups worked together to achieve their mutual desire of deposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and establish a government based on the principles of Islamism and Sharia Law.
However, the diverging approaches adopted by the two groups resulted in a mutual mistrust. HTS, previously known as Jabhat al-Nusra, sought to establish a state governed by their extremist salafi ideology across the Middle East by removing borders between the states to create a unified Caliphate.
Alternatively, Ahrar al-Sham adheres to the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, which espouses the creation of an Islamist state within the confines of the current Syrian state. This Syria-centric approach attracted greater grassroots support compared to HTS, which underwent several rebrands to make itself more palatable to the Syrian people.
The most recent clashes follow weeks of assassinations, skirmishes and hostile rhetoric between the two groups.
Notably, HTS took issue with Ahrar al-Sham’s desire to work with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which has been exemplified by Ahrar al-Sham’s adoption of the FSA flag. HTS declared this to be a departure from the jihadist character of the revolution.
HTS are currently making sweeping gains across the province. On 23rd July, it was reported that the HTS captured the city of Idlib in addition to all the border crosses with Turkey.
The conflict is considered to be a make or break battle given the winner will exert total control over Idlib province as the losing side fades into obscurity.