Hayat Tahrir al-Sham explained its position on the fighting against the Ahrar al-Sham Islamic movement, accusing it of declaring war after the “de-escalation” called for by Tahrir al-Sham.
Tahrir al-Sham’s Media Relations Manager Imadeddine Mujahid stated on Wednesday July 19 that Ahrar al-Sham is the one who declared war and took concrete steps by invading Sarmada, al-Dana and the villages of Jabal al-Zawiya with tanks and heavy machinery while the leadership of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham was trying to calm the situation and mend relations between the groups.
However, in its own statement, Ahrar al-Sham accused Hayat Tahrir al-Sham of breaking the signed agreement regarding the area of Tell Touqan, and stated, “Tahrir al-Sham moved its units to Jabal al-Zawiya and attacked several checkpoints belonging to the movement.”
The two sides swapped control over several areas in Idlib province, particularly in the areas bordering Turkey and the towns of Jabal al-Zawiya. The city of Sarmada witnessed the largest clashes, which ended with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham gaining full control over the area.
Tell Touqan is the Center of Conflict
In an interview with Enab Baladi, Mujahid declared, “The last meeting that brought together the leadership of Tahrir al-Sham and al-Ahrar resulted in a comprehensive agreement based on stopping the military build-up, mobilization and media incitement, and forming a committee to discuss unresolved issues.”
He explained, “The movement deployed its checkpoints last Monday in the village of Shinan in southern Idlib, which represented a clear violation of the military agreement. Then, Omar al-Khattab, the military spokesman of the movement, posted statements accusing Hayat Tahrir al-Sham of violating the agreement. Al-Ahrar then clarified that there is no condition that requires its withdrawal from the town of Tell Touqan.”
Meanwhile, the movement stated that “mobs belonging to Tahrir al-Sham stormed the areas of Hazarin and al-Tamanah and arrested Sheikh Tahir Atiq, the head of the Jabal al-Zawiya Court. The attack caused a number of deaths and injuries among the group’s members.”
According to Tahrir al-Sham, “al-Ahrar were the ones that started the mobilization, vigilance and harassment, and the actions taken by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham were defensive.”
Concerning the link between the recent fighting and international agreements, the official affirmed, “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham did not participate in or agree on the outputs of all conferences abroad, which have led to an increase in the suffering of Syrians. Its decision-making is internal and we do not accept any external orders.”
Where will the fighting lead?
Mujahid explained that bringing an end to the fighting “depends on the response of Ahrar al-Sham and their commitment to respect agreements. However, they have been repeatedly breaking agreements and covenants.”
He asked the leadership of the movement “to abide by the agreement and deal with issues using the proper mechanisms, namely the judiciary and joint hearings, and to put an end to the systematic violations it is carrying out.”
In a statement released yesterday, Ahrar al-Sham called on “the wise people of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham who witnessed the reconciliation process to fulfill their legitimate and moral duty towards the Syrian people.”
On July 16, both sides agreed to “de-escalate” fighting in the province of Idlib after the province had witnessed tensions for several days, during which arrests and mutual accusations were carried out by both sides.
It was not the first time the province had witnessed a confrontation between the two sides. Clashes took place last March, resulting in the arrest of members belonging to the two factions.