On October 6, the former branch of al-Qaeda in Syria, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), and the Turkish-backed National Front for Liberation (NFL) reached a reconciliation agreement after a series of armed clashes in the western Aleppo countryside.
According to the HTS-linked news network Iba’a, the reconciliation agreement was signed by radical scholar “Mazhar al-Ois” on behalf of HTS’ leadership and by “Hassan Sufan,” a senior leader of the NFL. Under the agreement, both groups will withdraw their weapons from civilian areas and release all the militants who were captured during the clashes.
The tension between HTS and the NFL began on September 26, when HTS forces attacked the town of Darat Izza in order to arrest several members of the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement [one of the NFL’s groups] after accusing them of carrying out several attacks inside the town.
Back then, an initial ceasefire agreement was reached. However, the situation escalated again on October 5 when HTS security forces attempted to arrest personnel of the of the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement in the town of Kafr Halab. Three civilians, including two children, were killed during HTS attack on the town, which led to a wave of anger among Syrian opposition supporters.
This crime didn’t stop HTS, that launched another attack on positions of the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement in the villages of Mizanaz and Kafr Nouran a day later. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), these clashes led to the death of six militants, including a field commander of the NFL.
Local observers viewed these acts as a clear attempt by the radical group to expand its influence in the western Aleppo countryside, which is considered the heartland of the NFL. This behavior poses a serious challenge to the Russian-Turkish deconfliction agreement on the governorate of Idlib.
Under the agreement, a demilitarized zone will be established in the opposition-held areas around Idlib. This includes the NFL’s positions in the western Aleppo countryside. HTS’ destructive behavior inside the zone could jeopardize the agreement.