From Battlefronts in Hama, Al-Julani Responds to Accusations, Sets Conditions to Cease Shelling of Hmeimim (Video)
The commander-in-chief of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Abu Muhammad al-Julani, spoke about the reasons for the military campaign launched by Assad forces, with Russian air support, on the fronts in Idlib and in the Hama countryside.
Al-Julani appeared in a recording released by Tahir al-Omar, a media figure affiliated with the organization, via his Telegram channel on Sunday, May 12. Al-Julani appeared to be on the battlefronts of the Hama countryside, with Syrian regime helicopters flying overhead, according to the footage.
Al-Julani said that the military campaign is the result of the failure of political conferences, and the attempt at deception that is being prepared to undermine the Syrian revolution in the conferences of Astana and Sochi.
After the failure of these conferences, the Russians opted for military action, which is what HTS had expected according to al-Julani. He believed that political conferences will not result in a solution, and are a mere attempt to undermine the revolution and deprive it of its capabilities.
Al-Julani’s appearance coincided with the intensification of the fighting, and the continuous escalation in the countryside of Hama and Idlib by the Syrian regime and its Russian allies. The recent developments have so far resulted in the regime taking control of several towns west of Hama, routing out opposition factions from the area.
“The Russian leadership is looking for means to justify killing children and destroying hospitals and schools,” al-Julani said. “In Eastern Ghouta, Daraa, Homs countryside and East Aleppo, there were no missiles fired at Hmeimim, but the Russian air force nonetheless bombarded these areas and destroyed their civil institutions.”
Al-Julani added that “the Hmeimim base has never been a base for peace, but has come to bomb civilians. By targeting them, we are merely responding, and this is the right of the factions.”
He addressed a message to Russia that “if [Russia] wishes the cessation of bombing Hmeimim, it must stop supporting the Syrian regime and killing civilians, and this is how it can safeguard itself.”
A military source told HTS-affiliated Ibaa’ Agency, on Thursday, May 2, that an HTS artillery and missile regiment has targeted Hmeimim Air Base with 35 Grad missiles.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday threatened a firm response against the faction after its targeting of the air base.
Meanwhile, HTS was accused of withdrawing from escalation areas early, and not putting its full military capabilities into the fight, especially in Kafr Nabudah in the northwestern countryside of Hama.
In response to these accusations, al-Julani said that “HTS has sent forces and reinforcements to the fronts, and distributed members so as not to draw all the forces to one location. We are keeping our eyes open to the other fronts, for fear of reopening fronts by Russia and Iran,” noting that “HTS is doing all that is within our capacity.”
Al-Julani also responded to accusations that HTS is restricting rebel fighters from reaching the fronts, by saying, “Every day, we see a new influx of Mujahideen into the fronts. This tribulation has been a gift from Allah, because it brought together the Mujahideen, and brought harmony between them. Everyone is standing on the same side, and pointing their rifles in the right direction.”
He added that HTS extends its hand and welcomes anyone who wishes to defend the region, and that the organization would receive them without an objection. He noted that during the past two days, many factions and groups have joined the fight to defend the region.
The fate of the Hama/Idlib region is still unknown, with continued military escalation by the Assad regime and Russian forces, coinciding with the complacency of the international community and Turkey, who sufficed with inadequate statements about recent developments in that area.