Enab Baladi – Special
The recent events that Maarat al-Numan city had witnessed came to an end with the complete dissolution of the “13th Division” in the countryside of Idlib. “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham” succeeded, then, in undermining another faction of the “Free Syrian Army” in northern Syria and in strengthening its influence in the governorate of Idlib.
What Happened in Maarat al-Numan?
“Hayat Tahrir al-Sham” launched an attack on the headquarters of the “13th Division” on Thursday in Maarat al-Numan. Many civilians and soldiers were killed during the attack. This act was justified by the pursuit of “spoilers” and the detention of the killers of Ahmad Husni al-Turk, the member of “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.”
According to “Ebaa” news agency, which belongs to “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham,” the latter arrested Mohammed Khashan and Muhanad al-Shuhnah and charged them for killing al-Turk. It also stated that “these charges will be transmitted to court,” and added: “We announce the pursuit of the corrupt cells within Maarat al-Numan.” However, the fighting did not stop but has developed instead, as some of the demonstrators against “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham” were shot and injured.
The conflicts between “Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham” and the “13th Division” date back to March 2016, when “al-Nusra Front” (which is currently fighting next to “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham”) attacked the headquarters of the faction in the city of Maarat al-Numan and seized its headquarters and weapons.
This action was met with widespread reactions at the popular level in the city and tens of demonstrations against “al-Nusra” broke out in Maarat al-Numan .These manifestations lasted even after “al-Nusra” joined “Hayat Tahrir al- Sham” early this year.
In his interview with Enab Baladi, a leading figure in the “Free Syrian Army” accused “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham” of pursuing the policy of exclusion of the “Free Army” factions from the governorate of Idlib. This is the same way “al-Nusra,” which is one of the prominent factions of “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham,” did with about ten local factions in three years.
An Agreement which Completely Demolishes the “Division:”
“Hayat Tahrir al-Sham” and “Free Idlib Army” reached an agreement on 9 June to dissolve the “13th Division” in Maarat al-Numan, in light of the clashes that the city had witnessed during the past two days and which caused several deaths and injuries.
The agreement, which was described by the “13th Division” as “regrettable,” calls for the formation of a judicial committee to inspect the recent events that caused the death and injury of people belonging to the two parties.
Under this agreement, which requires the “Division” to be completely knocked down, “Free Idlib Army” will hand over all wanted “Division” people to this judiciary committee.
The “Free Idlib Army” will also take over all the headquarters of the “13th Division” except for that of the party, which will be managed by “al-Maarah Services,” a branch of “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.”
Once the agreement is put into action, the parties will be committed to the removal of all forms of armed manifestations in the city.
The “13th Division” responded to this decision by posting the following statement on Twitter: “ISIS tried before you. They killed, wronged, imprisoned and surpassed, but then people rejected them and kicked them out of al-Maara and Idlib. They were humiliated and defeated. The revolution is continuing and there is no demise for rebels.”
The “Division” added that “the problem is not the dissolution of the ‘13th Division’ like what happened with tens of factions that ‘al-Nusra’ fought. The question that should be raised is the following: Will the crimes of ‘Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’ be stopped after the dissolution or would they continue? Who is next?”
It Killed two Brother Officers
As part of its efforts to eliminate the “13th Division,” which is based in the town of Maarat al-Numan in the countryside of Idlib, “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham” killed two brother officers who deserted al-Assad’s forces more than three years ago and who are considered to be among the Free Syrian Army’s most prominent leaders in the city.
“Hayat Tahrir al-Sham” has acknowledged that its members are responsible for the death of Colonel Ali al-Samahi who was killed in a shooting attack near the town of Khan al-Subul (eastern Maarat al-Numan) in southern Idlib countryside, on Wednesday 5 April.
According to identical sources, which talked to Enab Baladi, the car that was carrying Colonel Ali al-Samahi, the chief of staff of the “Free Idlib Army,” and Colonel Ahmed al-Suod, the commander of the “13th Division” in the same faction, was shot by armed members of “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.”
On 8 June and during the recent confrontations, members of “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham” attacked Colonel Tayseer al-Samahi’s home. He is the brother of Colonel Ali, a senior leader of the “Free Idlib Army” and the commander of the “Free Police” in Maarat al-Numan.
In February 2013, Colonel Ali al-Samahi, who is an officer at the military records department in Damascus, and his brother Colonel Tayseer al-Samahi, who is an officer in the Border Guards forces, announced their split from Al-Assad forces in a video posted on YouTube.
The two brothers preferred to stay in their town Maarat al-Numan in the countryside of Idlib. They participated in battles against Al-Assad forces, according to Enab Baladi sources. They played a prominent role in the establishment of the “Free Idlib Army” last year and the “Free Police” in the city.