PHOTO: Abu Jaber, the new leader of the expanded jihadist coalition Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham
Amid fighting between the jihadists of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and rebel factions, several groups have announced they are joining JFS.
Most of the Nur ed-Din al-Zinki Brigade — which was already sharing camps with JFS — Liwa al-Haq, Jabhat Ansar al-Din, and Jaish al-Sunna have merged with JFS, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra.
The bolstered coalition will be known as Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (Liberation of the Levant Committee). The leader has been named as Abu Jaber (Sheikh Hashim al-Sheikh). He is a former commander of the largest rebel group Ahrar al-Sham, which is now leading factions opposed to JFS/Nusra.
It is unclear what position Abu Mohammad al-Joulani, the long-time leader of JFS/Nusra, holds.
JFS/Nusra launched attacks on rebel positions and headquarters across northwest Syria on Monday, taking the front west of Aleppo city and several villages in Idlib Province.
Ahrar al-Sham responded by announcing it will protect other rebel groups, and battalions with thousands of fighters soon joined the leading faction.
The fighting between the jihadists and rebel factions is the most serious since November 2014, when JFS/Nusra defeated the Syrian Revolutionary Forces and Harakat al-Hazm, effectively disbanding those groups as commanders and fighters withdrew to Turkey.