Opposition infighting between Ahrar al-Sham and Tahrir al-Sham kills 14 in Syria's Idlib

Infighting between two of the most powerful factions in Syria’s opposition-held Idlib province has killed at least 14 people in the past 24 hours, a monitor said on Wednesday.

The fighting involves the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), led by a former al-Qaeda affiliate, against one-time ally Ahrar al-Sham, a powerful rebel group.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighters from the two sides were engaged in clashes across the province in northwest Syria that killed 11 fighters and three civilians in the last 24 hours.

“These are the most violent and widespread clashes that have taken place between Ahrar al-Sham and Tahrir al-Sham,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

“The clashes are ongoing across all of the province, with territory changing hands… It’s an existential battle,” he added.

The two groups have clashed before, despite having previously formed the backbone of the alliance that captured most of Idlib in early 2015.

The latest conflict arises partly out of a dispute over Ahrar al-Sham’s desire to fly the flag of the Syrian uprising in Idlib city, the Observatory said.

Idlib city was only the second provincial capital to fall from government control, and the province is one of the last remaining strongholds of the rebels.

More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

The Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria.

The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.

Image: Getty

Article: The New Arab