After two days of fighting with militants from the rival militant coalition Fa Ithbatu, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham has launched a large-scale attack in order to put an end to the resistance to its dominance in Greater Idlib.
According to pro-militant sources, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham members supported by battle tanks stormed the town of Arab Said west of Idlib city. This town was recently captured by Fa Ithbatu forces and turned into a foothold for operations against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. At the same time, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham besieged and stormed the HQ of Horas al-Din, a member group of Fa Ithbatu, in the town of Sarmada.
In their turn, Horas al-Din attacked several Hayat Tahrir al-Sham checkpoints near the western entrance to Idlib city, allegedly seizing them.
Fa Ithbatu accuses Hayat Tahrir al-Sham of conspiring with foreign forces, mainly Turkey, against the so-called Syrian revolution. Earlier in June, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham arrested Ansar al-Din commander, Abu Salah al-Uzbeki, and Liwa al-Muqatlin al-Ansar commander, Abu Malek al-Tali. Both these groups are a part of the recently formed Fa Ithbatu coalition.
Meanwhile, pro-militant sources are spreading rumors about an increase in operations of the Russian special forces in southern Idlib. According to them, a unit of the Russian special forces raided a position of Turkish-backed Suqur al-Sham near the village of Benin killing 4 and injuring 3 members of the group.
This became the first militant claim about the Russian Special Forces in Idlib since the signing of the March 5 de-escalation agreement between Ankara and Moscow. If such an attack really happened, it was likely a response to the recent drone attack by Idlib militants on Russia’s Hmeimim Air Base in Lattakia.
Late on June 24, an unidentified drone struck a militant vehicle moving on the road near the town of Binnish in Greater Idlib. The strike completely destroyed the vehicle and the several persons inside. While the eliminated militants are yet to be identified, local sources claim that the vehicle likely belonged to Ansar al-Tawhid or Horas al-Din. Recently, combat drones of the US-led coalition conducted several strikes on ISIS- and al-Qaeda-linked terrorists that hide in the Turkish-occupied part of Syria.
The Turkish Army and Turkish-backed militants shelled positions of the Syrian Army and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) near the town of Tell Rifat in northern Aleppo. Pro-Turkish sources claim that several army and YPG fighters were killed. Strikes likely came in response to the recent series of attacks by YPG-affiliated cells on positions of pro-Turkish groups in the region of Afrin.