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Attempts by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham to consolidate power further in Greater Idlib, and be “rebranded” are continuing with full force.
The al-Qaeda-affiliate so-called “opposition” group reinforced its military wing with yet another brigade, to a total of eleven.
Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has spared no effort in attempting to restructure, develop and expand its military wing since being defeated by the Syrian Arab Army and its allies during the December 2019–March 2020 Greater Idlib battle.
This reimagining of the terrorist group was advertised recently in a hype video promoting its forces as a modern, professional and organized army, not as a terrorist group ruling over a region of a sovereign country.
The terrorist group has also been working to eliminate any competition within Greater Idlib.
As of July 9th, HTS managed to force the infamous Muslim Abu Walid al-Shishani, leader of Junud al-Sham, to dissolve his group of Chechen and Lebanese militants.
Turkey on its part is doing nothing to contain it, allowing frequent ceasefire violations and other atrocities.
The United States has already admitted that a rebranding of HTS is necessary, as it could be a useful ally against the Syrian government and its Russian support.
Naturally, both the Damascus government and Moscow’s forces aren’t sitting idly and allowing the so-called “moderate opposition” to do as it pleases.
Turkey as a signatory to the ceasefire regime refuses to even attempt to enforce it and Russia is forced to take matters into its own hands and respond to any gross violations.
On July 9, warplanes of the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) carried out a series of airstrikes on several locations across Greater Idlib, mostly of importance to HTS.
Several airstrikes targeted the hills surrounding the town of Kabani in the northern countryside of Lattakia, an infamous stronghold of various al-Qaeda affiliates, HTS included.
On the very next day, Russia’s efforts continued, and the VKS struck a number of targets in the outskirts of the town of Josef in southern Idlib.
The fight isn’t that of the Russian forces alone, and they happened not by accident alongside Syrian artillery strikes, which targeted militants’ positions in southern Idlib, northwestern Hama and northern Lattakia.
HTS is likely feeling a sense of urgency in consolidating power over Greater Idlib and reinventing itself, as the US is in need of another stable ally, that Turkey doesn’t oppose.
Clashes between Turkish-backed factions and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are not uncommon.
The SDF also have their hands full with attempting to contain ISIS, which is resulting in an increasing number of victims and a lack of new recruits to fight against the terrorists.
The United States is having its positions in Syria, and also in Iraq, successively targeted following its June 27th strikes on ‘resistance’ positions.
With its soldiers and equipment being subject to various strikes, it is of utmost importance that a reliable ally provides the necessary “diversion” from Washington’s interests.