An unnamed commander of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) told the Syrian opposition news outlet Enab Baladi on December 20 that the armed group didn’t withdraw from Damascus’ Eastern Ghouta as it had been agreed upon between the Syrian opposition and the government due to problems with Jaysh al-Islam.
The HTS commander said that one of the key problems between HTS and Jaysh al-Islam was the fate of 13 HTS fighters who are imprisoned by Jaysh al-Islam. Jaish al-Islam refuses to release them. Furthermore, the commander even claimed that Jaysh al-Islam is refusing to allow HTS fighters to take their family with them to Idlib governorate.
On December 17, Jaysh al-Islam executed 45 fighters of HTS that were captured during previous clashes between the two armed groups in Eastern Ghouta, according to the Hezbollah media wing in Syria. The move that was seen by some observers as a trick to sabotage the deal with HTS.
On the other side, Syrian opposition sources revealed that many commanders of HTS in Eastern Ghouta are against withdrawing to Idlib governorate. According to Enab Baladi, HTS even arrested many of its fighters and commanders who agreed to withdraw, including a high-ranked commander called “al-Razi”.
The deal to move HTS fighters from Eastern Ghouta to Idlib governorate was first reported on December 8. Since then all sides have made huge efforts to execute the deal that may put an end to the violence in Eastern Ghouta. However, with the HTS leadership refusing any peaceful solution as many Syrian pro-government activists predicted, the deal appears to be paused as for now.