Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham has announced that it has taken control of Jebel Barakat, the highest summit in the western Aleppo countryside, as part of the fighting it started against the Nour Eddin al-Zinki movement.
The group’s Ebaa news agency said on Jan. 1, 2019, that, “Tahrir al-Sham has taken control over Jebel al-Sheikh Barakat in the western Aleppo countryside, from which the criminals had launched attacks and killed four mujahideen.”
The agency showed images of Tahrir al-Sham members said to be at the summit of the mountain after taking control of it.
In an interview with Enab Baladi, a member of the media bureau of the National Liberation Front, Mohamed Adeeb, denied Tahrir al-Sham had taken full control over the mountain.
He said, “Clashes are still ongoing, and Tahrir al-Sham only has groups on its outskirts … the mountain is massive.”
The two sides (Zinki and Tahrir al-Sham) have recently traded accusations about revoking the agreement that was reached on Sunday and which stipulates resolving the dispute between them, after Tahrir al-Sham members were killed in the Darat Izza area west of Aleppo.
Media sources from the Aleppo countryside told Enab Baladi that the summit of Jebel al-Sheikh Barakat was controlled by Zinki, while Tahrir al-Sham controlled a different part by Zarazita, al-Qatoura and Deir Samaan.
Sources said that the two sides had brought tanks and heavy vehicles to the fighting, and that Zinki was able to destroy a Tahrir al-Sham armored vehicle on the outskirts of Darat Izza.
Darat Izza’s importance for Tahrir al-Sham comes as a result of it being one of the most prominent areas in the western Aleppo countryside, as well as its strategic position as the highest summit in the north, which is Jebel al-Sheikh Barakat.
Jebel al-Sheikh Barakat is distinguished by a number of points, including:
- The mountain enjoys a strategic position in western Aleppo, as it overlooks all the Aleppo countryside—west and northeast.
- It overlooks the city of Afrin, as well as the towns of Nubl and al-Zahara, which are controlled by the Syrian regime.
- It includes a large network of civilian and military communications towers, and its altitude is 1,000 meters above sea level.
- The rugged geography and the high altitude serves the side that controls it from a military perspective.
- Previously a battalion of the Air Defense Directorate has controlled it, and it was taken by rebel groups in June 2016.
- Turkey has a major interest in the mountains, and there have previously been reconnaissance operations by the Turkish army during Operation Olive Branch in Afrin.
Sources in the Free Syrian Army told Enab Baladi on Nov. 26, 2018, that Tahrir al-Sham had tried to take full control over the international highway, setting their sights on the town of Maarat al-Nouman in the southeastern Idleb countryside and Daarat Izza in the western Aleppo countryside.
Tahrir al-Sham’s influence in the western Aleppo countryside is concentrated in the towns and villages of Tedil, Taladah, the environs of Daarat Izza, and then up to the northern Idleb countryside.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.