Through SNA Cracks: HTS Infiltrates Aleppo Countryside, Manipulates Loyalties

HTS is annexing more military formations or besieging and dismantling other groups, according to Syria TV.

The proxies of the Headquarters for Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) are actively and noiselessly moving to tighten control over entire northwestern Syria. They are annexing more military formations or besieging and dismantling other formations that refused to be affiliated under any name, whether public or covert. 

Similar sources intersect that a feverish activity is being carried out by Abu Muhammad al-Julani’s delegates to tighten control over the entire territory and the decision after it condemned HTS. On the ground, they are active in a hidden way in Afrin while holding the artery of northeastern Aleppo, represented by the Hamran crossing between Manbij and Jarabulus, to ensure the extension of their control within the narrow borders of the major cities north of Aleppo, such as Marea, Azaz, Al-Bab, and Al-Rai.

The sources say that HTS succeeded, through Abu Maria al-Qahtani, a prominent leader in the HTS at various stages that witnessed structural and ideological changes that it has witnessed since its establishment in 2012, in winning over several key formations in the Third Corps. The Third Corps’ backbone is the Levant Front, with a lesser role for the Army of Islam – the most prominent and largest of which are the Tal Rifaat and Meng groups. 

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Paradoxically, HTS uses one of the fiercest opponents it has faced in the past in the western countryside of Aleppo, Ahmed Rizk, the former military commander of the Nour al-Din al-Zinki movement, who is currently part of the ranks of HTS, as a message of reassurance for the future of the northern leaders with HTS in the event of subordination. He appeared in a photo of a meeting that included the leaders of the Tal Rifaat area with the Ahrar al-Sham Movement–Ahrar Olan.   

Ahmed Rizk was also able to co-opt several groups affiliated with the National Liberation Front and entice other groups to join Ahrar Oulan to enable their control over the crossing and the hydrocarbon road in reference to the Olan area in the countryside of al-Bab. The movement took it as its center and was named accordingly to distinguish it from the movement’s opposition wing of the commission and closer to the national army.   

As for the Second Corps or the Rebels Liberation Commission, it seems that it is not interested in these movements, which are taking place before their eyes and with the help of several factions, so many of their commanders rushed to court leaders of the Commission. They placed their headquarters and military capabilities at the disposal of the Commission in the area of operations of the Olive Branch, the area that is now witnessing the process of dismantling the Hamzat and al-Amshat factions by the Commission after placing all their members, camps, and weapons at the disposal of Tahrir al-Sham, which ideologically and militarily rehabilitates the members in mandatory and closed camps.

 

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.

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