Jihadist fighters have blamed Islamic State (ISIS) jurist and commander Ahmad Wahid al-Abd (Abou al-Baraa) for losing rebel strongholds at the Syrian-Lebanese border following the commander's recent surrender to the Lebanese Hezbollah militia.
In an exclusive interview with Zaman al-Wasl, rebel commander Samer Mohamad al-Masri said Hezbollah members were able to advance and take control of the Jurd Jiyet and Maraat Yabroud areas without facing any notable resistance.
Masri said his faction had imprisoned members of the ISIS forces, including Abou al-Baraa, but that other parties intervened to see their release because those arrested were locals. No foreigners were among the group members being held by Masri.
The ISIS fighters were released after they pledged to return to their homes and abandon the organization, except they soon returned to fight the Free Syrian Army factions until Jurd al-Qalamoun fell and rebel fighters were forcefully displaced to Idleb.
In the interview, Masri claimed that Abou al-Baraa’s faction in Qalamoun received half a million dollars a month from oil billionaire George Hassouani for more than two years. Hassouani, who is closely tied to the Assad regime and is facing sanctions from the U.S. and EU, is known to have financed and purchased oil from ISIS.
Despite claims it was fighting the Hezbollah forces, ISIS forces based in the Qalamoun were secretly coordinating with the militia to kill rebel fighters in the area, Masri said, adding that the Lebanese group's shelling never targeted ISIS areas.
This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.