Syrian authorities steps up assault towards Islamist enclave

ALEPPO, Syria — The Syrian authorities is carefully watching how the army pressure of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) is creating in Idlib governorate and is following up with concern on its supposed success in imposing its hegemony on Idlib and in selling the work of the establishments that present companies within the space. The Syrian authorities continues to strengthen that HTS is a terrorist group that have to be fought and eradicated.

In 2018, HTS was designated by the US as a terrorist group, with the UN Safety Council together with it as a sanctioned entity linked to the Islamic State, al‑Qaeda, and related people and teams.

In late 2021, authorities forces waged a brand new battle towards HTS (beforehand generally known as Jabhat al-Nusra), broadcasting confessions made by detainees affiliated with the Qasioun Brigades, which the federal government accused of being a part of HTS and behind a collection of blasts which have struck Damascus and its countryside over the previous few years.

In response to the federal government, a gaggle affiliated with HTS claimed accountability for a collection of bombings in a number of components of Damascus and its countryside in 2019, 2020 and 2021. On Dec. 25, the Syrian Information Channel carried out interviews with members of the group who mentioned that they had obtained directions from HTS’s leaders in Idlib.

In a video of the interviews launched by the federal government, members of the group confess. These individuals are Tariq Zaki al-Saadi, Muhammad Ayman Omar Erslan, Youssef Muhammad al-Khamis, Abdallah Muhammad Arfan al-Masalkhi, Mahmoud Nazhat Nazhat and Omar Fahd Nazhat. All of them mention HTS leaders in Idlib Abu Saleh and Muhammad al-Saleh (aka Abu Amin). In response to the group members, the leaders gave them directions to hold out the assaults. The assaults, which the group admitted conducting, embrace focusing on government-affiliated safety officers, individuals collaborating with the federal government, and members of the federal government forces and its auxiliary forces.

The Qasioun Brigades introduced themselves for the primary time in April 2019 in a press release on Telegram wherein they claimed accountability for killing two members of the Republican Guard within the city of Wadi Ayn Tarma, which connects Damascus to japanese Ghouta. On Telegram, the brigade posts about its numerous operations in the capital and its countryside, the newest of which was blowing up a bus carrying staff of the federal government’s Navy Housing Company on Oct. 20. Whereas it’s nonetheless unknown with whom the brigades are affiliated, HTS has shunned pointing to any ties with them.

An HTS official who declined to be named advised Al-Monitor, “We’ve got change into accustomed to the false claims that the Assad regime media have been making for 10 years. The latest accusations relating to the Qasioun Brigades didn’t shock us. Many Syrian activists and journalists appeared within the regime’s media the place they made faux confessions and testimonies they have been compelled to make to be able to serve the regime’s narrative.”

He added, “I consider that the Qasioun Brigades are a type of native resistance in Damascus, and one can say that they include a community of former revolutionaries and opponents who selected to remain there relatively than be a part of the displacement waves from the southern components of Syria up to now years. The regime is making an attempt to make use of this card, claiming that they’re affiliated with HTS and obtained funds from the latter. These are false claims.”

By broadcasting these confessions, the federal government desires to say that it nonetheless has an iron safety grip in areas below its management, in a bid to reassure its supporters. On the identical time, it ranges accusations towards HTS in a bid to enlarge a well-liked base hostile to the latter and to emphasize the necessity to get rid of it after the battles within the north have been halted in early 2020 by way of a Russian-Turkish understanding.

In parallel, HTS continues to strengthen its army capabilities and recruit extra individuals inside its ranks. The elevated army energy is seemingly reflecting HTS’s want to protect and defend its areas towards the Syrian authorities. In late December, it launched a recruitment marketing campaign to convey new parts and fighters into its ranks.

The marketing campaign entails the group of a number of programs and the educating of assorted combating kinds, along with bringing new individuals to the ranks of the Purple League, specifically its particular forces that obtain particular coaching and participate in complicated army operations. Its members are referred to as “inghimasiyeen,” which implies those that perform particular suicide operations within the depth of their opponents’ areas.

The recruitment campaign included attending the armored, sniper and artillery forces programs. HTS publicized its marketing campaign by hanging banners in a number of cities and areas below its management in Idlib governorate, and it arrange eight recruitment divisions to obtain new volunteers who should meet predetermined conditions.

The HTS Navy Academy introduced on Oct. 11 the commencement of the group’s commanders. Earlier it introduced the completion of a number of coaching programs such because the Purple Leagues course, the level-up course, the sphere commanders course and the particular forces course. It additionally promoted the rehabilitation and coaching of its fighters to develop their fight abilities.

In a associated vein, Ali Keda, head of the HTS-affiliated Salvation Authorities, visited in December the Navy Academy in Idlib, the place he met with a lot of officers who had defected from the federal government and who have been newly appointed on the academy that HTS established within the first quarter of 2021. Keda additionally inspected the primary course of student officers on the academy.

Talking on situation of anonymity, a jihadi supply opposing HTS advised Al-Monitor, “It appears that evidently the go to of the top of the Salvation Authorities to the academy might be step one on the trail towards saying the institution of the Ministry of Protection. These developments appear to fret the regime, which desires to assault HTS in Idlib as quickly as potential and fears that it may take too lengthy.”

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