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HTS clashes with new Syrian jihadi formation in Idlib province Open in fullscreen

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HTS clashes with new Syrian jihadi formation in Idlib province

HTS control much of Idlib province [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 June, 2020

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HTS have clashed with jihadi groups such as Hurras Al-Din in Idlib.
Clashes continued Thursday between Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) and a new Al-Qaeda-aligned coalition in northwest Syria, as an intra-jihadist rivalry threatens to spark war between the two sides in Idlib.

A stand-off has ensued in west Idlib after Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate, Hurras Al-Din, formed the Fathbutou ("Stand Your Ground") operations room with other jihadist factions on 15 June.

HTS has clashed with the group on numerous occasions since then, culminating in an attempted raid of a Hurras Al-Din militant base in western Idlib on Wednesday.

Gunfire and shelling forced families in the besieged Arab Said village to flee their homes with the stand-off continuing later into the day, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Militants from the Hurras Al-Din-led "Fathbutou" coalition have sought to take control of territories in western Idlib by establishing checkpoints, HTS alleges.

The move has led to tensions with HTS, which nominally controls Idlib province and is known for its hard-line approach to perceived rivals - whether secular, Islamist or jihadist.

HTS - formerly an Al-Qaeda affiliate - has arrested a number of high-profile figures in Idlib this week, some associated with the new jihadi alliance.

This includes the detention of Abu Malek al-Talli, a former HTS commander who left the organisation due to its decision to quietly abide by a Russian-Turkish brokered ceasefire, agreed in March.

His faction recently joined the Fathbutou coalition, which has been engaged in deadly clashes with regime forces in southern Idlib and threatened to trigger a new devastating war in northwest Syria.

Also detained is Tauqir Sharif, a British aid worker, whose arrest by HTS has led media workers and activists in Idlib to call for his release.

"More than 2 days & still waiting for an official charge from HTS regarding Tauqir Sharif & his arrest," tweeted Bilal Abdul Kareem.

"The fight here in Syria is about giving people their rights & justice through Islam. We aren't fighting just for Tauqir's rights, we're fighting for everyone's rights.

HTS has been involved in a number of conflicts with Hurras Al-Din and perceived supporters of the Islamic State group.

They have also detained, tortured and murdered pro-democracy activists and NGO workers.

Its leader Abu Mohammed Al-Jolani has sought to improve HTS' brutal image in Idlib with a PR campaign in the province to help cement its control.

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