Controversy has swirled in Syrian opposition circles around who is responsible for an attempt to assassinate a fighter in the Second Corps in the National Army, Suhail al-Hammoud, known as “Abu al-Tow,” in Idleb city.
The event brought to mind similar assassinations that have succeeded for the most part over the past several years, which have struck those who operate the one sophisticated piece of weaponry the opposition has obtained since the peaceful protest movement against the regime turned into an armed conflict in early 2012.
Hammoud was shot at in Idleb city on Wednesday after leaving a demonstration that marked the ninth anniversary of the Syrian revolution. He was shot in the left foot during a clash with a group of masked men who tried to arrest him, and he was brought to a hospital in Idleb for treatment.
Hammoud is from the the town of Abdita in Jabal al-Zawiya, south of Idleb, and defected from the regime army in March 2012. He was famous for hitting armored vehicles and mobile groups of pro-regime forces and militias during his work in the opposition as an operator of the American-made TOW missile launch platform, destroying over 150 targets.
Hammoud was among the fighters sent by the opposition to the Idleb fronts to counter a recent ground assault by regime forces. The anti-armor missiles he launched played a prominent role in inflicting heavy losses among Iranian militias. During fighting in Sheikh Aqeel, he killed a senior commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, al-Hajj Ibrahim, the third most important figure in the Iranian militia command in northern Syria.
Media sites close to the opposition National Army and the National Front for Liberation accused Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham of trying to assassinate Hammoud, saying that a security force affiliated with the organization tried to arrest him in the al-Thawra neighborhood of Idleb but failed after Hammoud, who was carrying a personal weapon, resisted. A clash took place between the two parties, which wounded Hammoud. The security group escaped with a number of wounded members.
The National Army condemned the assassination attempt on Hammoud, and demanded that leaders of the opposition factions and security forces track down the criminal cells, bring them to justice and stop their evil acts, as they put it.
Leaders in Tahrir al-Sham denied the reports about the attempt to assassinate Hammoud, and said that the arrest attempt that Hammoud escaped was hours earlier on the same day and that an assassination targeted the leader of Ahrar al-Sham, Alaa Abu Ahmed, who had a major role in the operational fronts in Jabal al-Zawiya. It said known parties are behind the attempts and they were trying to create disagreement among the opposition.
They said that there were no winners from such events except the Assad regime and its allies, and so it was unreasonable for the operation to take place in front of a group of Hammoud’s friends, and openly during the day—and that if Tahrir al-Sham wanted to arrest him, it would have done so when he entered Idleb two months ago.
If Tahrir al-Sham did not have a hand in the attempt to assassinate Hammoud, then the fingers were also pointed at the regime, Russia, and the Islamic State (ISIS), through their agents located in opposition areas in Idleb.
Operators of American anti-armor missile launchers have been targeted more than once in recent years, the most famous of them being Colonel Ahmed al-Saeed, who was killed on Nov. 6, 2016, in al-Rashideen, southwest of Aleppo. He was one of the leaders of the Jaish al-Mujahideen at the time, and was a battalion commander.
Saeed appeared in a video showing a Hezbollah group being hit on a hill south of Aleppo with a TOW missile. In mid-2014, ISIS assassinated one of the most skilled TOW operators in opposition ranks, Muthanna Abdul Karim al-Hussein, nicknamed the “tank sniper.”
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.