North Syria experiences heightening tensions as 'Nusra Front' pursues expansion

Swathes of northern Syria territory controlled by rebel factions, encompassing rural areas of both Idlib and Aleppo, have been witnessing escalatory tensions.

Internal conflict has been registered between Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions and the recently formed Tahrir al-Sham group (HTS).

The group was formed on January 28, 2017 as a merger between Ansar al-Din Front, Liwa al-Haqq, and the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement—units are led by al-Nusra Front, which also goes by Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.

Circumstances across rebel-held areas experience heightened tensions with great vigilance towards a ceasefire that has been in effect for five days, FSA leader told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Speaking under anonymity, the FSA leader said that HTS units have been incessantly attacking FSA-linked Army of Mujahideen locations, looting arms warehouses.

Fierce clashing erupted on several hot-spots, but HTS militants’ advances nearby Turkey border rebel-held locations were thwarted.

HTS militants continue to establish barriers, taking over FSA arms and vehicles. FSA units are being attacked by on their way to battle fronts against regime forces in Aleppo, the FSA leader said.

Nusra-led militants also are conducting nocturnal operations in which they carry out various arrests.

The rebel leader added that the number influential figures based in northern Syria, notably Abdul Razzaq al-Mahdi and Abu Alharf al-Masri, are saving no effort in an aim to calm matters down.

However, the leader relayed that the situation has already snowballed gravely in light of the reluctance to limit HTS vile transgressions against rebels.

HTS members attacked opposition factions, registering incidents of arrests and the break and enter of vital locations, reported a statement issued by the independent Syrian Network for Human Rights.

Only a day after of HTS was formed, arbitrary arrests took place, which effected top FSA and rebel leaders who refused joining the coalition with the ex-Qaeda affiliate. Occasions on which private property was confiscated were also reported.

Image: Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS

Article: Asharq Al-Awsat