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Idlib’s Confrontations Continue Amidst Talks about Tribes’ Participation

Members of the Sham Falcons Brigades in Idlib – 26 February 2018 (Telegram)

Members of the Sham Falcons Brigades in Idlib – 26 February 2018 (Telegram)

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The confrontations in Idlib governorate continue through the exchange of authority between the two parties to the conflict and amidst talks about the potential entry, participation, of “tribal forces,” the members of Syrian tribes and clans, which are preparing to head towards the governorate, within the frame of the Turkish movement there.  

Since the beginning of the confrontations, on 20th of last February, “Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham” (HTS) has retreated in front of the “Syrian Liberation Front,” joining the two movements of Tahrir al-Sham and Nour al-Din al-Zenki, and the “Sham Falcons Brigades,” to retrieve certain areas, in the past a few days, and expand at the advantage of the “Front,” with the support of the “Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria,” which alienated itself from the fighting during its start.

Dozens of towns and villages sought to conduct agreements with the two sides, providing for alienating them from the fight and diminishing all the features of militarization there. Different statements were issued to tackle these agreements, while the confronting parties kept exchanging accusations, as whom is responsible for killing civilians and assassinating some of the fighters who participated in the happenings.

Control Exchange

Military sources told Enab Baldi, on Saturday, March 3, that the “Syrian Liberation Front,” in Idlib, took over the following areas: Arnabeh Ein Laruz, Mozra, Sfuhen, Hazarin, Ftireh, Kafr Oweid, Kafr Nabl and Talet Sfuhen, following confrontations with “Tahrir al-Sham,” amides fighting in other areas, including the village of Kansafra.

The sources added that the running confrontations in the western countryside of Aleppo are persistent, especially in the city of Darat Izza, which “Tahrir al-Sham” is trying to regain after it controlled the towns of Batabo, Kafr Nasih, Babkah, al-Jeineh and Abyan, and mobilizing them towards the city of Atarib.

Mohammad al-Sayed, a leader in the “Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement,” told Enab Baladi that “Tahrir al-Sham has formerly withdrew from the villages without battles to realign its forces, and then went back to them.”

The “Syrian Liberation Front” lost the towns and villages of al-Tawameh, Turmanin, Deir Hassan, Urum al-Kubra, Tadeal, Kafr Taal, Mohandessin. However, al-Sayed considered that “Tahrir al-Sham has already withdrew from these areas to return and give the people the illusion of a victory,” declaring that, in return, it lost major cities such as Darat Izza, Maarrat al-Nu’man and others.

“Ebaa” News Agency, affiliated with “Tahrir al-Sham,” reported that “Ahrar al-Sham” has violated the agreements that provide for the neutralization of Hazazin, Kafr Nabl and Hass in rural Idlib, and spread its forces within these towns in an attempt at controlling them.

And declared that after entering the mentioned areas, it faced a popular rejection from the area’s people. On their turn, the military sources, said that the rejection was directed to both of the parties to the “fighting,” speaking of “Tahrir al-Sham’s” allocation of a checkpoint in the surrounding of the city of Kafr Nabl.

After the power balance shifted to the advantage of the “Syrian Liberation Front” at the beginning of the confrontations, it became clear that “Tahrir al-Sham” was seeking to regain control, after the support of the “Turkistan Islamic Party,” in spite of which it lost leaders and dozens of its members; the “Front” also had its share of fatalities.

Would Tribal Forces participate?

A source from the Syrian tribes in Turkey told Enab Baladi, on Friday, March 2, that the meeting at the end of February in Urfa with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan came within the frame of forming a council and adopting it, pointing out that the efforts to prepare an “army” of the Syrian tribes and clans’ members started a while ago.

An official statement has not yet been made about the formation of the Tribal forces; nonetheless, the sources confirmed “their participation in the Olive Branch Operation in Afrin,” pointing out that “they will soon be heading to Idlib.”

He added that “we were told to prepare ourselves to head towards Idlib, pointing out that the involvement or non-involvement in the fighting against “Tahrir al-Sham,” to the day, is not clear, and then explained that “if there is an internal issue that must be illuminated, we will participate.”

The tribal forces are supposed to take a position at the confrontations front against Assad’s forces; the source explained that “the principal goal is to act against the regime at Idlib’s fronts, and we will be in control of all the points that used to be under Tahrir al-Sham.”

Analysts believe that heading towards the area is done within the frame of exhausting the factions during the confrontations, to be followed with an intervention against “Tahrir al-Sham” to annihilate it, while others observe the situation as still complicated and lacking clarity.

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