LATEST: Otaiba Mass Killing: Ambush of Insurgents or Attack on Civilians?


On Monday, we asked after the killing of Abu Khaled al-Suri — a senior figure in the insurgent faction Ahrar al-Sham and “Al Qa’eda mediator” between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra:

Can ISIS triumph or even survive…if it is fighting not only every insurgent faction in Syria but also its former ideological source, Al Qa’eda?

The answer appears to be No.

An audio statement by Jabhat al-Nusra leader Abu Mohammad al-Joulani, released on Monday and picked up by mainstream media on Tuesday, has told ISIS to to end fighting with insurgents or face expulsion from Syria and Iraq.

Al-Joulani said ISIS must accept the results of arbitration of its disputes with other factions, including Jabhat al-Nusra:

We are waiting for your official answer within five days of issuing this statement.

By God, if you reject God’s judgment again, and do not stop your arrogant overlording over the Muslim nation, then [we] will be forced to launch an assault against this aggressive, ignorant ideology and will expel it, even from Iraq.

Al-Joulani did not explicitly blame ISIS for the killing of al-Suri; however his statement placed responsibility for the fighting with insurgents, which escalated in January, on the Iraqi-led group: “Who is the one that stopped fighting the Nusayris (Alawites, a reference to President Assad’s forces and supproters) and started fighting those who fight the Nusayris?”

Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS split last year after the Iraqi group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared its primacy in the Syrian conflict. Al Qa’eda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri said that Jabhat al-Nusra, with its links to local groups, should have that position, but ISIS rejected the statement and broke from Al Qa’eda last month.

Otaiba Mass Killing: Ambush of Insurgents or Attack on Civilians?

Two very different versions of the deaths close to al-Otaiba, in East Ghouta near Damascus, are circulating tonight.

State media continues to declare, “Large Number of Terrorists Killed in an Ambush in Damascus Countryside“.

The Syrian military said more than 175 fighters, mainly from Jabhat al-Nusra and Liwa al-Nusra, were slain in the ambush.

However, the insurgent Islamic Front says the 45 people killed were civilians who tried to leave besieged villages in East Ghouta. Well-placed sources also give this account.

State Media Video: 175 Insurgents Killed Near al-Otaiba

Syrian State media’s report on the claimed killing of 175 insurgents by Assad forces near al-Otaiba outside Damascus:

Russia Warns Saudi Arabia Not to Give Anti-Air Weapons to Insurgents

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has warned Saudi Arabia against supplying insurgents with MANPADS, shoulder-launched missile launchers.

“If this sensitive weapon falls into the hands of extremists and terrorists who have flooded Syria, there is a great probability that in the end it will be used far from the borders of this Middle Eastern country,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Tipping off concern over recent insurgent advances in southern Syria, Moscow said that the Saudi shipments sought to alter the balance of power in a planned spring offensive by opposition fighters.

Sources indicate that Saudi Arabia has tried to escalate provision of weapons to insurgents, but supply of heavy arms, especially anti-aircraft weaponry, has been held up by US obstruction.

See Video Analysis: How US is Letting Insurgency Hang in the Breeze

3rd Media Activist Killed Within Week

Media activist Ahmad Abdulmunem Othman, working with the insurgent faction Jaish al-Mujahideen, has been killed.

Othman is the third citizen journalist slain in the past week.