Earlier this week, three Salafis Sheikhs in Idlib announced an initiative to end the crisis between Ahrar al-Sham and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Idlib province. The initiative of Sheikh Abu Mohammed Al-Sadiq, Sheikh Abdul Razzaq Al-Mahdi and Sheikh Abu Hamza Al-Masri, included four main terms:
- The cessation of hostilities from 12 pm on Wednesday, July 19, 2017.
- Each party shall identify three persons authorized to make a decision on behalf of its faction.
- Each party shall assign 3 names of independents to be a referee in the event of a dispute.
- The delegates of the two factions shall meet with independent representatives to resolve the dispute between the two parties and to establish a binding and comprehensive vision that takes into account the political, military and civil rights of all parties within seven days from the date of commencement.
Ahrar al-Sham released an official statement supporting the initiative, and said it was waiting for the HTS response, but announced that it would not stop repelling HTS attacks.
— محمد أبو زيد (@Ahrar_SpokesMan) 19 July 2017
In turn, HTS continued its military operations against Ahrar al-Sham in Idlib and managed to capture Asqut in the western countryside of Idlib and Harsh Abdin in the southern Idlib countryside.
HTS also announced that it had repelled an attack of the convoy of Ahrar al-Sham consisting of 20 vehicles, a BMP-1 and a battle tank that had tried to advance towards its positions in Sarmada in northern Idlib countryside. HTS also announced that it destroyed the tank.
The Nour al-Din al-Zanki Movement announced that it had split from HTS as a result of its actions and its rejection of a peaceful solution so far. Ahrar al-Sham issued an official statement welcoming the decision.
— محمد أبو زيد (@Ahrar_SpokesMan) 20 July 2017
Meanwhile, the Desert sector of Ahrar al-Sham announced its defection and that it will join HTS.
From its side, Ahrar al-Sham announced capturing Qala’at Al-Madiq, which is considered one of the main crossings with the government-held areas. It’s believed that the main aim of Ahrar al-Sham is to maintain the smuggling line between the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border and the Qala’at Al-Madiq crossing. It’s worth mentioning that money is considered the main reason of disagreement between HTS and Ahrar Al-Sham.