After disappearing for more than two months, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, leader of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), held a meeting with eight senior commanders of other terrorist groups, including the Islamic Turkistan Party (TIP), Horas al-Din and Jaysh al-Izza, in the town of Atmaeh near the border with Turkey, Sputnik reported on April 20 citing local sources
According to the Russian news agency, the meeting was held under strickt security measures that “were never seen before” in Idlib. A 5km security zone was established around Atmeah. Furthermore, a large HTS force was deployed in the town, along with many snipers and even jamming equipment.
The local sources said that al-Julani, who was reportedly accompanied by three Turkish-speaking militants, informed other terrorist commanders that the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) could launch a military operation in Idlib soon. He also ordered them to put their militants on a state of full alert and keep their vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) prepared for operation.
“Al-Julani issued a strong threat to the leaders of armed groups and factions, warning against handing over any area within any agreement, stressing that the faction, which will hold any agreement without consulting him, will become a legitimate target for HTS’ fighters and will be treated as an enemy and a traitor,” the sources said.
The notorious terrorist leader also said that the Turkish measures will not likely hold off any attack by the SAA. He also suggested that highly-experienced militants, who were evacuated from Homs and Damascus last year, should join the ranks of Jaysh al-Izza.
Two months ago, al-Julani’s convoy was reportedly targeted by a double-tapped explosion that rocked the city center of Idlib. Back then, Russian, Syrian and Turkish sources said that the terrorist leader was injured in the attack.
The recent meeting in Atmaeh is an example of how al-Julani is leading the opposition-held part of Idlib with threats and intimidation. Several terrorist groups in southern Syria and around Damascus followed the same principles before they were defeated by the SAA.