Syria Developing: Rebel Battle v. Jihadists of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham in Northwest

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PHOTO: Formation of the rebel faction Jaish al-Mujahideen, now under attack by the jihadists of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, May 2016


UPDATE 1745 GMT: Local sources report uncertainty over the extent of the fighting between the jihadists of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and the Syrian rebels:

Overall the situation is still mostly muddy. From many areas we can’t get solid accounts due to cut communications, and not everything the leaders say materializes on the ground. For some events there are totally different reports, and unfortunately in most cases it’s impossible to verify.

Now see Syria Analysis: A War Between Jihadists and Rebels?


ORIGINAL ENTRY: The dispute between Syria’s rebels and the jihadists of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham has erupted into fighting across the northwest of the country.

Reports this morning indicate that, after months of tension and occasional clashes, the confrontation has escalated with JFS — formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra and linked to Al Qa’eda until July 2016 — surrounding the headquarters of the large rebel faction Jaish al-Mujahideen in Idlib Province.

Other large factions, such as Ahrar al-Sham, Faylaq al-Sham and Suqour al-Sham, then mobilized to push back JFS. Free Syrian Army fighters and civilians have erected blockades in areas near Batabo and Atareb to prevent movement of JFS fighters, holding up a 1-km convoy in Idlib Province.

Fighting is reported in al-Halzoun in western Aleppo Province, with “multiple” rebel casualties, and near Khirbet al-Joz in Idlib Province, with JFS claiming the capture of several rebels. Nour ed-Din al-Zinki — formerly aligned with rebels but now sharing camps with JFS, including one bombed by the US last week — is supporting the JFS assault.

Late-night demonstrations have been held in towns throughout Idlib and Aleppo Provinces to denounce the JFS attacks.

Rebel sources said JFS moved much of its force surrounding the regime enclaves of al-Fu’ah and Kafraya in Idlib Province to launch the assaults. The jihadists reportedly cut off Internet access as it surrounded rebel buildings.

A Jaish al-Mujahideen commander appealed to rebels, “We won’t beg for your assistance, help us if you will… Better to die standing up rather than survive humiliated”.

THe Jaish al-Mujahideen statement that it will fight JFS, calling on others to join.

JAISH AL-MUJAHIDEEN STATEMENT 01-17

While Jabhat al-Nusra has fought alongside rebel factions in much of Syria since 2013, the relationship has been marked by political differences and occasional violent disputes.
In late 2014 the jihadists defeated the US-supported Syrian Revolutionary Forces and Harakat al-Hazm, pushing those groups into Turkey.

However, both SRF and Harakat were widely disliked by other rebel factions, who accused them of theft and war profiteering. Jaish al-Mujahideen is held in higher regard by the leading rebel groups.

When it formally broke with Al Qa’eda in July 2016 and renamed itself, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham said it was seeking unity in the fight against the Assad regime. But talks have failed to bring a political alignment, with discussions reportedly breaking down earlier this month.

Last weekend an immediate conflict appeared to have been avoided when JFS said it would not provide protection to fighters who were with the affiliated group Jund al-Aqsa, accused of attacking rebels in recent weeks.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. Was bound to happen. Incredibile tensions going back before the days of Aleppo falling. Actually the only reason why JaF and co. stayed with their hands in their pockets during those days whilst most external observers were busy in dissing JaF inaction etc etc. JFS made a mistake by assorbing JAA during previous rebel infighting around Hama area. Biggest problems for Ahrar too which is now facing some defections and has to make a final choice. JFS i think is lost. In the sense that it will be very hard to bring them back on the moderate side of the revo. If this confrontation will brake up in total war then expect the moderate rebels to vanish from Idlib. Close pattern to when ISIS broke of from the rest of the rebels. Another great favour to the mayor of damascus.
    Follow Lister’s tweets for the evolving situation.

    • As their commanders sit in Astana, Nusra/AlQaeda takes over HQ & checkpoints of Syrian rebel group Jaish al-Mujahedeen in MaarShoureen, Idleb.
      .
      Rebel group Jaish al-Mujahedeen is now finished in Idleb after AlQaeda’s takeover. Same scenario happened before with other “moderates”.
      .
      AlQaeda arrived with big military convoy. Jaish elMujahedeen surrendered with no fight. Unclear if leader in Astana can come back to Idleb.
      .
      Nusra/ AlQaeda are also besieging the weapon stores of FSA group “The Levant Front” in town of Anadan.
      https://twitter.com/jenanmoussa/status/823702899943493632

      • Like it or not, ISIS and JFS are the only independent groups on the ground. The rest became prostitutes of the tawagheet and will be remembered solely for that.

        Even Assad´s regime is more entitled to rule syria than the people who gave bay’ah to spineless erdogan and the likes.

        • @Bs As

          Actually, that’s not exactly true. Isis can’t be said to be very independent, given their alliances in the past with the regime. And anyway, the reasonfor the existence of Isis is to kill the believers and help the kuffar, they have no goal other than that.
          .
          Secondly, JFS is still tied to al qaeda at least idealogically if not operationally. That means that they have no real plan for a post-Assad Syria, i.e. they have no idea of what rules they would implement, which as has been repeated so many times is a recipe for disaster and ruin and the needless and wasteful loss of much life. Think Afghanistan after the Soviets. Things quickly devolve from pious idealism to bitter struggles for power.
          .
          No, what has been ignored by everyone is the people of Syria, the sunnis, the Muslims, not in the factions but the civilians behind them. They are the ones who are truly independant and most importantly some have a realistic policy for implementation. JFS is using their anger with the traitors and sell-outs to move against the other rebel groups, who have signed up to work with the regime against JFS anyway. But forget JFS being the deciders in this conflict. They are not. At the moment, they know public opinion is on their side, and that’s what they listen to more than anything else.

          • ISIS can’t be said to be very independent, given their alliances in the past with the regime” — Give over with this nonsense, as it’s a joke of agit-prop now gone to seed. There was never any alliance between IS and the Assad government — what there was was a temporary confluence of interests in [mostly] fighting NATO’s proxy pets first, since they were the bigger threat to both, before turning to settle the open accounts with each other. That made perfect military sense for both of them and is the norm in any fight. There is no further use in pretending either of them owe any favours by acting like fools and wiping each other out so NATO’s JI-Joes could just waltz to victory in Damascus.

  2. Jawlānī tried to play nice with the mergers. After the talks failed and facing an escalating bombing campaign by the US, it left him with force as the only method left to consolidate power and ensure his organization’s continued existence.
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    JFS has a track record of easily crushing rebel groups in Idlib. Let’s see if it holds, as this has the potential to escalate into the biggest inter-rebel conflict since the rift with the Islamic State.

    • Very simple — ‘rebels’ have no philosophy but to make themselves cheap props to be used and as quickly discarded by NATO, whereas ‘jihadis’ represent their own political interests contrary to the diktat of the serial recidivist imperialist warcrims.

      • this is roughly true, but the russians and iranians are cheaper props than the rebels. It’s taken 5-6 years to get the rebels to the geneva table but it took Putin 5 seconds. Anything to be partners with the US president, er Secretary of State, er ok Erdogan, that’s where Russia belongs, right next to him. For the moment.

    • I would say that rebels are fighting against Assad’s dictatorship, while jihadis are fighting for an islamic dictatorship.

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