On June 23, an intense fighting between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and the recently formed coalition of al-Qaeda-linked groups, Fa Ithbatu, erupted in the countryside of the Syrian city of Idlib. The village of Arab Said and the area near Idlib central prisons reportedly became the main hot points of the fighting.
According to pro-militant sources, the fighting broke because of the recent tensions between the sides caused by arrests of some members of Fa Ithabatu by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham security forces.
Some sources claim that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham even limited the movement a prominent pro-militant journalist, Bilal Abdul Kareem, who is known for his radical views.
هيئة تحرير الشام تعتقل الإعلامي الأمريكي بلال عبد الكريم. pic.twitter.com/KEMlJSErhd
— Fadi Hussein | فادي (@fadihussein8) June 23, 2020
Fa Ithabatu demands to release all its prisoners and, according to its supporters, already captured the Idlib prison.
Tensions between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and one more al-Qaeda-linked group, the Turksitan Islamic Party, were also reported in the town of Jisr al-Shughur in southern Idlib.
Fa Ithabatu and the Turksitan Islamic Party may have been unhappy with the recent actions of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which indirectly supported the implementation of the Turkish-Russian de-escalation agreement on southern Idlib that includes joint Russian-Turkish patrols along the M4 highway there.
While the close cooperation with Turkey allows Hayat Tahrir al-Sham to increase its military and financial capabilities, the implementation of the de-escalation deal poses a direct threat to interests of smaller radical groups such ones from Fa Ithabatu. Therefore, there is a clear conflict of interests that may turn into a full-scale military confrontation.
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