Interim Govt’s Defense Ministry calls on Aleppo countryside factions to join National Army

Fighters in the Syrian National Army in northern Syria - April 5, 2023 (SIG’s Ministry of Defense)

Fighters in the Syrian National Army in northern Syria - April 5, 2023 (SIG’s Ministry of Defense)


The Ministry of Defense in the Syrian Interim Government (SIG) controlling the countryside of Aleppo in northern Syria has demanded that groups in the area that are not aligned with it join the ministry under the conditions and standards of the Syrian National Army (SNA).

A statement by the ministry on Wednesday, March 20, clarified that the goal behind the factions and groups joining is to “consolidate institutional work and improve the security reality in the area.”

The ministry also referred to all groups that refuse to join the National Army as “outlaw groups” and stated they would be dealt with by “army units” at an appropriate time and method.

The issue of al-Shahba Gathering

The statement came at a time when there was talk about al-Shahba Gathering, which is known for its proximity to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) controlling Idlib.

The media office of al-Shahba Gathering denied the military formation’s dissolution, which spread across the countryside of Aleppo, after reports of the resignation of commander Hussain Assaf (Abu Tawfiq) recently.

The office explained to Enab Baladi that Abu Tawfiq resigned from commanding the 50th Division/Ahrar al-Tawhid and not from al-Shahba Gathering, which still exists with its factions, namely Ahrar al-Sham – Eastern Sector, the 50th Division, Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement, and Azaz Hawks Brigade.

It was mentioned that the commander’s resignation from the 50th Division was not based on any disagreement, and that the Division is cohesive in all its components.

Abu Tawfiq’s resignation came two days after military tensions were witnessed in the northern countryside of Aleppo, when individuals obstructed a convoy including Turkish figures at Sajo roundabout near Azaz, followed by the convoy’s security firing in the air to disperse protesters.

Following the incident, on March 17 of this year, factions from the Syrian National Army, especially al-Hamza Division (al-Hamzat) and Sultan Suleiman Shah Division (al-Amshat), were mobilized.

Local Telegram channels (widely spread in the region) circulated that the individuals who obstructed the Turkish delegation belonged to al-Shahba Gathering. Yet, the Gathering issued a statement denying the individuals’ affiliation with it and stated that local dignitaries handed over a part of the individuals who intercepted the convoy and are working on delivering the rest to al-Jabha al-Shamiya faction.

Al-Shahba Gathering was formed in February 2023, and in its founding announcement, it declared its goal to preserve the revolution objectives, organize military ranks, and stand with the revolutionary security, police, and service institutions.

Previous steps

At the end of February, the Ministry of Defense in the Syrian Interim Government announced the joining of the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement (19th Division) and Mughawir al-Sham (7th Division) to the ranks of the Syrian National Army.

This joining step under the National Army’s umbrella came amid efforts from the latter to end the factionalism and unify the banners within its areas of control in the northern and eastern countryside of Aleppo and the towns of Ras al-Ain northwest of al-Hasakah and Tel Abyad north of Raqqa.

The Syrian National Army consists of three corps, and there is no fixed number of its elements. The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces stated that they number 80,000 fighters in 2019. In contrast, a report by the Middle East Institute, in October 2022, indicated that the formation comprises between 50,000 to 70,000 fighters.

The National Army witnesses mergers and defections of several military formations from it, and a state of factionalism prevails that is formed under various names despite their affiliation with the army. These formations, after merging, adopt flags bearing the new name of the military body, raise them at their headquarters, checkpoints, and vehicles, and then remove them in case of defection.

Plan since 2022

On October 27, 2022, the Interim Government launched a plan to activate the role of institutions and unify the factions, after a series of meetings and encounters conducted by the Ministry of Defense with various military and security forces within it.

Also, a meeting of the National Army leaders with officials of the Syrian file, was held in Gaziantep, Turkey, at the end of October 2022.

The outcomes of the meeting were limited to leaks without any official clarification, but the most prominent items were the unification of the National Army factions, ending the state of factionalism, dissolving all security apparatuses within the factions, and establishing a single security device for the entire region.

Despite the Interim Government’s promises to control security, the region still witnesses a state of security chaos and an absence of accountability for perpetrators of violations.

Statement from the Ministry of Defense in the Syrian Interim Government calling on the factions in the Aleppo countryside to join the Syrian National Army - March 20, 2024 (SIG’s Ministry of Defense)

Statement from the Ministry of Defense in the Syrian Interim Government calling on the factions in the Aleppo countryside to join the Syrian National Army – March 20, 2024 (SIG’s Ministry of Defense)



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