On February 3, the Ahrar al-Sham Movement and ten other armed groups in Idlib governorate announced in an official the statement that they had formed a new joint operations room named “Rad al-Ghuzat” to repel the ongoing attack of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in southern Idlib.
Several US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups joined the operations room including Jaysh al-Nasir, Jaysh al-Izza, the Free Idlib Army, Faylaq al-Sham, the Elite Army, the First Infantry Division and the Second Army. Moreover, several radical groups like Jaysh al-Ahrar and the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement [both defected from Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) only few months ago] also joined the new operations room.
In their statement, the eleven groups vowed to launch offensive and defensive operations against the SAA and its allies in the governorates of Idlib, Hama and Aleppo.
HTS, the Ahrar al-Sham Movement, the FSA and the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement formed several joint operations room during the last few months. However, all of these attempts to unify their efforts against the SAA failed.
Syrian pro-government activists believe that the announced joint operations room is nothing more than a propaganda stunt that’s aimed at foiling the angry opposition supporters in Idlib governorate.
The tensions between the civilians and the armed groups in Idlib took a serious turn on February 2 when dozens of civilians in the town of Binnish in the eastern Idlib countryside protested against the FSA and HTS leadership. The protestors even stormed and destroyed a security office of HTS in the town.
HTS rapidly reacted deploying hundreds of fighters around Binnish and besieging all the civilians inside. On early February 3, HTS fighters entered the city and began attacking the homes of the protestors, killing at least one civilian and injuring dozens others, according to Syrian opposition activists.
After arresting dozens of civilians and reestablishing its security offices and checkpoints inside Binnish, HTS fighters withdrew. Many civilians and opposition supporters, including supporters of HTS condemned the attack on Binnish. The town is located only 12km north of the city Saraqib that’s under attack by the SAA.
Local experts believe that what happened in Binnish will likely repeat in many other villages and towns across Idlib in the near future, as the tensions continue growing in the governorate.