On February 19, the Ahrar al-Sham Movement and the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement announced in a joint statement that they are merging their forces to form a new armed group in the Syrian governorate of Idlib. The name of the group is the Syria Liberation Front (SLF).
According to the statement, the SLF will fight the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies. However, Ahrar al-Sham and Nour al-Din al-Zenki stressed that the SLF will also stand against anyone who works against “the revolution’s forces”.
According to Syrian opposition sources, the SLF will be led by Jaber Ali Basha, a senior commander of Ahrar al-Sham. These reports are yet to be confirmed by the SLF.
Ahrar al-Sham is considered a terrorist organization by several countries including some US allies like Egypt and the UAE. On the other hand, Nour al-Din al-Zenki, which used to receive support from the US, is also well-known for its numerous war crimes, especially during the Aleppo battle in 2016. These war crimes incident include the public beheading of an ill Palestine minor.
Some Syrian opposition activists believe that the creation of the SLF is an attempt to counter the influence of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Idlib governorate. The decision to form the SLF was even taken to stop HTS from launching a large attack against Nour al-Din al-Zenki, according to this version.
HTS openly accused Nour al-Din al-Zenki of assassinating its Egyptian scholar “Abu Ayman al-Masri” on February 17 and even threatened on to conduct direct actions if al-Zenki refues to hand over the killers of al-Masri.
The FLS will not likely be able to counter the influence of HTS in Idlib governorate, as the majority of the foreign fighters and religious scholars there are supporters of HTS. Some local sources believe that HTS will be able to defeat the SLF within days in any future military confrontation, the way HTS had defeated Ahrar al-Sham and Nour al-Din al-Zenki many times before. However, even in this case, the creation of the SLF is a threat to the HTS influence.