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SEPTEMBER 2020

Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham Acknowledged Defeat In Greater Idlib Battle In New Video Release

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Al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) acknowledged its defeat in the last battle in the northwestern Syrian region of Greater Idlib in a new video release.

The video, titled Wa Tuhadithu Akhbaraha [Telling Its Stories], documents the battle from HTS’ point of view. The video was released by the group’s media agency, Amjad, on August 3.

In the documentary, HTS explains how its terrorists attempted to stop the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) attack on Greater Idlib in 2019 using an array of tactics.

The group built its entire strategy around a single principle, “the best defense is a good offense.” Under this strategy the group’s terrorists launched a series of counter-attacks and raids at the beginning of the battle.

While this tactic granted HTS some limited, temporary success in the battlefield, it failed to stop the SAA. In the first phase of the battle, the army managed to secure vast areas in northern Hama and southern Idlib, including the town of Khan Shaykhun.

Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham Acknowledged Defeat In Greater Idlib Battle In New Video Release

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Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham Acknowledged Defeat In Greater Idlib Battle In New Video Release

Click to see full-size image

Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham Acknowledged Defeat In Greater Idlib Battle In New Video Release

Click to see full-size image

Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham Acknowledged Defeat In Greater Idlib Battle In New Video Release

Click to see full-size image

As the army began advancing on the Damascus-Aleppo highway, the M5, in early 2020, HTS started to rely on more radical tactics.

The group launched large-scale attacks on other fronts, mainly Aleppo, to distract the army. The group also carried out more suicide attacks with booby-trapped vehicles and well-trained fighters who were left behind as sleeper cells.

Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham Acknowledged Defeat In Greater Idlib Battle In New Video Release

Click to see full-size image

Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham Acknowledged Defeat In Greater Idlib Battle In New Video Release

Click to see full-size image

Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham Acknowledged Defeat In Greater Idlib Battle In New Video Release

Click to see full-size image

Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham Acknowledged Defeat In Greater Idlib Battle In New Video Release

Click to see full-size image

Despite these efforts, HTS failed and sustained heavy losses. The army managed to reopen and secure the M5 highway by March of 2020.

HTS’ commander tried to justify their defeat with the heavy fire power of the SAA and the support of its allies, Russia and Iran. The group ignored the vast support it received from Turkey, which inflicted heavy losses on the Syrian Army.

Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham Acknowledged Defeat In Greater Idlib Battle In New Video Release

Click to see full-size image

The documentary featured Abu Mohamad al-Julani, the leader of HTS, who acknowledged that the group was defeated and attempted to reflect this as an “achievement.”

“The battle has not ended yet, yes, we lost a round in the last eleven months, but the battle is not over and we should stay determined,” al-Julani said, adding “Even if we were left with a single inch of this land.”

Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham Acknowledged Defeat In Greater Idlib Battle In New Video Release

Click to see full-size image

In the documentary the group also acknowledged the loss of some its top military commanders, like Abu Ubaidah Kansafra, Saif al-Rahman al-Uzbaki, al-Mu’tasim bi’llah al-Madani, Mansour al-Daghistani, Abu Suleiman al-Hamwi and Abu Jihad al-Shafei al-Ansari.

The documentary was released by HTS following reports of an upcoming attack by the SAA on Greater Idlib. The army is already amassing troops around the region.

By releasing this documentary, HTS is not only trying to justify its defeat but also to amass public support for a new battle with the SAA. The full elimination of the terrorist group is among the top goals of the army and its allies.

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