Clashes between the rebel groups, HTS and NLF, renewed in the Aleppo countryside. The clashes, which allegedly started after the HTS attempted to open a base in the NLF-held Kafr Hamra, have since spread to other areas.
Clashes between the rebel groups Hayy’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and the National Liberation Front (NLF) have renewed in western Aleppo, threatening to spread across the rest of the Greater Idlib region. The most recent clashes, which began following a dispute between the two groups in Kafr Hamra, comes only two weeks after the two groups signed a ceasefire agreement.
Much of what is known about the situation came from the statements by the two groups. According to the NLF, the HTS broke an agreement to not expand and attempted to establish a base in the town of Kafr Hamra on the outskirts of Aleppo City. The HTS is subsequently reported to have forced the NLF to close its base, resulting in clashes when the NLF refused, resulting in the deaths of two high-ranking HTS militants.
The HTS rejected this version, claiming that the deaths of the two militants, named Abu Turab al-Sharia and Khattab Amu Omar, were “assassinated” by the NLF as they entered the town to engage in talks.
Over the course of the week, clashes spread from Kafr Hamra to the surrounding areas, including Dar’at Izza, Sheikh Khader, Jamiat al-Rahal and Shamiku. Kafr Hamra itself was reportedly captured by the HTS. On Tuesday evening, the clashes came to an end following the signing of a ceasefire agreement. However, tensions remain and the likelihood of the ceasefire being broken is high, given how the cycle of ceasefire and clashes developed in the previous instances.
In addition to fighting the NLF, the HTS also arrested media activist Jumah al-Amri and his father and injured activist Abu Karam al-Halabi. Two other activists, one a health worker, was also kidnapped by the group.
These developments come at a sensitive time. Although the Russo-Turkish agreement to implement a DMZ is going ahead, the Syrian Government has been very vocal about its intention to launch military operations in the region. The continued presence of the HTS in Kafr Hamra, which is located within the DMZ, significantly increases the likelihood of a loyalist offensive.