The leader of Syrian Rebel Front, Jamal Maarouf, has stressed that he is in a safe place and that he moves freely, working to restore his fighters in order to regain the villages lost in the battles with the Nusra Front and the groups supporting it.
Maarouf said he and his troops were subjected to a nine-day siege imposed by the fighters from the Nusra Front, Jund al-Aqsa, the Umma Brigade, and factions of Soqur al-Sham, Saraqeb Rebel Front, the Syrian Liberation Front and Ahrar ash-Sham Islamic Movement. Maarouf said that 29 of his fighters were killed, describing them as "our most prominent fighters".
"These factions surrounded the Zawiyah mountain to prevent the factions of Syrian Rebel Front from supporting us," he said, adding that his forces lost some ammunition, 400 mortars and 82 anti-tanks artilleries, which obliged them to make a tactical withdrawal, blaming some factions of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) because of their "silence".
Maarouf said he withdrew in order to preserve the lives of his fighters.
"We withdrew in order to save the lives of the young men of the region, because we had enough ammunition. The numbers of the Nusra Front fighters was huge, and to face them we had to fight in the villages. This could harm the civilians there, this is the reason that led us to withdraw from Deir Sunbul," he said.
Responding to reports about the defection of some of his fighters to the Nusra Front, Maarouf denied any split.
"I challenge all those who say that fighters of the SRF have defected to join Nusra," he said, noting at the same time that "the defection of the 72 fighters from the Security Brigade, led by Lt. Wael Moussa, to join Suqur al-Sham was prepared 'in advance'".
"On the second day, 60 fighters returned, while 12 fighters stayed with Moussa and those have defected from the Syrian Rebel Front," he said.
In a related context, Maarouf confirmed that factions of Ahrar ash-Sham have participated in the fight against the rebels.
Maarouf concluded by emphasizing that his forces would return to fight again.
"Neither Baghdadi nor Golani will prevent us from toppling Bashar al-Assad's regime," he said.
Violent clashes broke out between the Syrian Rebel Front and the Nusra Front late last month. The clashes ended with Nusra taking control over important rebel headquarters, and Maarouf's troops were forced to withdraw from their main stronghold on the Zawiyah mountain.
Syrian activists and opposition websites published news reporting that Maarouf was captured. An opposition radio station, quoting its correspondent, said that the Suqur ash-Sham Brigades, led by Abu Issa Sheikh, captured Maarouf and that he would be handed over to the sharia court in the region, which is chaired by Sheikh Muhaisni, a leader in the Nusra Front. The radio station added that Suqur ash-Sham denied its intention to hand over Maarouf to Nusra.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer