HTS utilizes suicide bombings against advancing regime forces

HTS suicide car bomb detonates on regime forces in the al-Zahraa’ area of Aleppo on Feb. 1.

As the Assad regime and its allies advance into Idlib from two directions, Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS), the largest jihadist force in the area, has increasingly utilized suicide bombings in defense of the province.

Since the beginning of the year, as pro-Assad forces have increasingly moved on the last remaining rebel-held territory, the jihadist force has utilized at least 12 suicide bombings against regime forces in both Idlib and Aleppo provinces.

For instance, just earlier today HTS claimed responsibility for suicide bombings in two different locations. The first targeted regime forces in the village of Nerab, while the second reportedly detonated on a group of “occupier Russian militias” near Dadekh.

Both villages sit close to the city of Saraqeb, which is currently under siege. Some reports have stated that regime forces have entered the town today.

While yesterday, it claimed a suicide bombing on regime fighters near the village of al-Dhahabiya, just east of Saraqeb. A few days earlier on Feb. 1, HTS used three bombers on an assault on regime forces in the al-Zahraa’ area of Aleppo.

Hugo Kamaan, an independent analyst focused on the use of suicide car bombs, has been able to identify the various vehicles utilized in that suicide assault.

Late last month, four suicide operations were claimed by HTS. On Jan. 31, the group claimed that a parked suicide car bomb detonated on regime forces in al-Sahafiyeen in Aleppo. Though Kamaan has reported that it is unclear if this was indeed a suicide bombing.

On Jan. 29, the group claimed two separate suicide bombings in Idlib. The first was a suicide car bomb on regime troops near Khan as-Sabul; while the second occurred when a member of HTS’ elite “Red Bands” units detonated his suicide vest near Maarat al Numan.

Maarat al Numan was recaptured by regime forces just a day earlier. While on Jan. 26, another suicide bombing was claimed near al-Muhanna in Aleppo.

At the beginning of the year, on Jan. 2, HTS detonated two suicide car bombs on regime troops near al-Tah in Idlib.

As the regime and its allies continue to push into Idlib, it is likely that HTS will continue its campaign of suicide bombings. It is also likely that other groups will also join in this tactic.

For example, the HTS-allied Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), has a long history of using suicide bombings in Syria. Groups within the al-Qaeda-linked “Incite the Believers” operations room will also likely resort to this defense.

Photos of HTS suicide operations since Jan. 2:

Al-Zahraa’, Aleppo:

Al-Muhanna, Aleppo:

Al-Sahafiyeen, Aleppo:

Khan as-Sabul, Idlib:

Al-Tah, Idlib:

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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