The following investigation has been totally carried out by our field correspondents and information sources in Syria. Via it we try to show how complex situation in the country has been developing in the recent years since the regime could overthrow it inevitable defeat as well as extremists from Hayat Tahrir al Sham and Ahrar al Sham suffer a repulse and make their best to survive in revolting Syria.
A short video depicting two masked armed men go along a narrow back alley pushing two blindfolded prisoners in front of them. In a couple of steps the convicts are ordered to stop and get down on their knees. Then the first of them receives a shot in the head, as the second one tries to escape but falls down after a fire burst.
The masked men are militants belonging to Hayat Tahrir al Sham. But the killed prisoners are not Syrian soldiers as you might think, they come from Ahrar al Sham. In fact, until recent times the grouping had been amongst the most powerful extremist organizations in Idlib province, but then they have lost their influence after a series of political clashes and fighting to HTS.
Moreover on Aleppo Media Office Facebook page we’ve found a similar video showing a brutal murdering of Ahrar al Sham member’s family by HTS extremists. This time three masked armed men break into a house and shoot a man and reportedly his three children. As they slaughter the entire family they film everything probably for futher report to their superiors.
We also have another video which captured an armed conflict between the two warring groups. An HTS biker reaches an unknown CP in Idlib province being accidentally under Ahrar al Sham control. After a few brief arguments Ahrar al Sham’s militant shoots his opponent to kill him. For the parental control reasons and in order to avoid violence on Youtube we were had to edit the material as we have a bad experience of being banned before.
Historically a rapidly developing conflict between the two groupings started in July this year. HTS seized the most of the province’s territory in days and pushed their adversaries to Aleppo province and to Sahl al Ghab in Homs province. Meanwhile Ahrar al Sham warriors failed to fight back despite loud and brave claims of Ahrar al Sham field bosses as well as most militants laid down arms and made fealty to HTS.
The only pocket of fierce resistance was at Bab al Hawa checkpoint in the vicinity of the Syria-Turkey border. The border CP on the Syrian side being controlled by Ahrar al Sham used to be a rare way to get to Turkey for both refugees and militants. And the CP became the exact place for the leaders of Ahrar al Sham to move to after the conflict had broken out. This fact caused HTS CEO’s to accuse the Ahrar al Sham command of trying to flee to Turkey. Later on HTS captured the border crossing point and the nearby areas followed by the Turkish government decision to temporally close the CP so Ahrar al Sham had bad luck here too.
In the meantime the convoys kept on delivering humanitarian aid including foodstuffs, medicine and construction supplies via Bab al Hawa CP for distributing reasons and charities funded by the Turkish government. The given humanitarian supplies were to be the only way for refugees in Aleppo and Idlib provinces living and surviving. Finally HTS made this supply route on the brink of cancelling.
Having a victory over their major foe as well as battlefield superiority in the region, HTS focused on setting its own government on seized sites. The grouping recently had a General Administration for Services responsible for all non-combat issues including highway reconstruction, electricity and cities developing offices. Initially the Administration operated along with humanitarian and charity organizations but in time the extremists made their best to take almost all independent establishments under control in order to arrogate to themselves foreign resources. HTS declared a Unified Administration set up only a month after Idlib province was captured and banned any independent municipal activity.
Those terms made a huge mess and aroused a strong opposition in the province population. The leaders of Local Council in the city of Idlib then controlled by the Syrian Interim Government accused HTS of taking unilateral decisions and refused to obey. It is still unclear how long the militants of HTS are going to put up with this sort of situation.
Local Councils and other set-ups of the moderate opposition are unable to oppose HTS. The extremists now have a monopoly in Idlib after a recent debacle of Ahrar al Sham. All the major rebel groupings were also knocked out or taken over in hostile manner including notorious 13th Division” and Jaysh al Nasr. Their arms and operational areas completely moved to HTS possession. Every resisting force was being mercilessly slashed then and now the situation gets more severe which means that execution videos of Ahrar al Sham members are not supposed to be the last one in a row.