Dispute between HTS and Guardians of Religion

Troops of the Jihad and Tawhid Battalion of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in rural Idlib - April 2019 (Ebaa news agency)

Troops of the Jihad and Tawhid Battalion of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in rural Idlib - April 2019 (Ebaa news agency)


Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which controls most of Idlib province, explained the reasons for its dispute with the Guardians of Religion Organization (GRO) in Mahmpel city near Ariha town, west of Idlib province. The communications director at HTS, Taqi al-Din Omar, told Enab Baladi on Saturday, 14 December, that a group affiliated with the GRO was cutting down transmission towers in Jisr al-Shughur and  al-Ghab plain in order to sell them.

Omar added that after several “ warnings and attempts” made by an HTS official to prevent the GRO from cutting down the towers, the GRO-affiliated group assaulted one of HTS’s fighters in Mahmpel city.

On the other hand, the GRO has made no comment on this incident.

Troops of the GRO stormed Mahmbel city on Friday, 13 December and detained the military commander of the HTS, Abu Muhammad Diaa who is in charge of the area.

Some HTS troops, according to Omar, were sent to the GRO to tell them about “a judicial hearing”, but receiving no answer. Omar added that “his faction intervened and arrested the group that assaulted the fighter to refer them to the judiciary.”

After the raid by the GRO on Mahmpel city, the HTS arrested a number of the GRO’s troops including Abu Abdul Rahman al-Libi, the GRO commander of the coastal battalion.

Omar denied, “what was rumored that there was a coordination to reach a reconciliation between the two parties.”

A very tense situation between the HTS and the GRO has been created in the recent months after the HTS detained a GRO leader in Kafr Zita in Hama countryside.

Relations were also strained in January 2019 after GRO rejected proposals submitted by the HTS about the future of the region.The HTS suggested the formation of a military council led by defectors from the regime who joined the “Free Army” or “ Sham Legion.”

The two factions agreed, last February, to stop “media harassment” due to the tension between the two parties, and to resolve the issue of the troops transitioning between the two military formations.

The formation of the GRO was announced last February, from the integration of seven operational military groups in Idlib.

According to information obtained by Enab Baladi, GRO includes the following military groups: Army of Malahem, Army of al-Sahel, Army of al-Badia, Saraya al-Sahel, Sariyat Kabil, Jund al-Sharia, and remnants of Jund al-Aqsa. They are led by the former leader of HTC, Abu Humam al-Shami in partnership with the leaders of the al-Qaeda in the Shura Council, including: Abu Jleibib Tubas, Abu Khadija al-Urduni, Sami al-Aridi, Abu al-Qassam, Abu Abdul Rahman al-Makki, as well as a number of former leaders in al-Nusra Front who refused to disengage from the al-Qaeda.

In fact, the GRO is one of the formations of the Wa Harid al Muminin operation room along with Ansar al-Tawhid, whose military activity is concentrated in the western side of Idlib province, right to the northern countryside of Latakia.

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