Late on July 14, security forces of al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) launched a large operation against ISIS remnants in Greater Idlib.
The operation targeted the terrorist group’s cells in the town of Sarmin in southeast Idlib, and in the town of Sarmada in the governorate’s northern part. Several ISIS hideouts were stormed by HTS militants and many suspects were arrested.
HTS’ security forces also clashed with a number of ISIS terrorists who refused to surrender in Sarmada. According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a cell commander of ISIS was killed in the clashes. The identity of the prominent terrorist was not revealed.
HTS’ unusual operation against ISIS came only a few hours after a suicide attack that targeted a Russian-Turkish patrol on the M4 highway in Greater Idlib. A group identifying itself as the Khattab al-Shishani Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack, in which three Russian service members were injured.
The timing of HTS operation indicates that ISIS could be responsible for the attack on the joint patrol. The responsibility of the so-called the Khattab al-Shishani Brigades is highly questionable. The group may be a cover for ISIS cells in Greater Idlib.