A report by the United Nations includes new details concerning the dispute between Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and al Qaeda’s senior leaders, including the role played by two veteran operatives living in Iran. The UN’s member states say that HTS is still in “contact” with al Qaeda’s leadership despite their heated disagreements, and that al Qaeda has even reinforced HTS with “military and explosives experts” sent from Afghanistan.
Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has cut a deal with Bashar al-Assad’s regime to exchange thousands of residents in Kefraya and al-Fouah, two predominately Shiite towns in the northern province of Idlib, for 1,500 prisoners held in Assad’s prisons.
The Islamic State has targeted key jihadist and Islamist leaders in Idlib province in recent weeks. The so-called caliphate’s assassination campaign has focused on prominent figures in Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), as well as other groups.
Ansar al-Islam raided an Assad regime military position in the Latakia province yesterday, killing more than two dozen Assad loyalists. The attack was widely celebrated on Sunni jihadist social media channels. Ansar al-Islam is a small jihadist group that originated in Iraq, but has fought in Syria for years.
Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS) and its jihadist rivals in the “Guardians of Religion” organization have called on all Muslims to resist the Assad regime’s new offensive in southern Syria. However, severe infighting has limited the jihadists’ ability to launch sustained operations against the Assad regime and its allies.
The State Department has amended the terrorist designation for Al Nusrah Front to include the “alias” Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS). State’s announcement indicates that the US government still considers HTS to be part of al Qaeda’s network, despite the jihadists’ vitriolic disputes over its formation. State didn’t explain its reasoning behind the move.
The Islamic State’s propagandists continue to take aim at rival jihadists, including al Qaeda and Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS). A recent Islamic State video calls upon HTS fighters to defect to the so-called caliphate’s cause.
The latest edition of al Qaeda’s Al-Nafir news bulletin addresses the jihadists’ infighting in Syria. Al Qaeda has been forced to comment on the disputes multiple times over the past year.