On February 23, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) continued its advance in the heartland of the newly formed Syria’s Liberation Front (SLF).
The HTS-linked news agency Iba’a reported that HTS fighters had captured the villages of A’ajel and Bsrtoni in the western Aleppo countryside. The two villages were initially captured by the HTS on February 21, however SLF fighters reentered them later.
HTS fighters also captured the strategic village of al-Ruyha in the southern Idlib countryside and the al-Sheikh Bahr camp in the eastern Idlib countryside, according to Iba’a. The source added that more than 15 fighters of the SLF had surrendered to HTS in al-Ruyha.
From its side, the SLF claimed that its fighters had recaptured the town of Kafrnaha in western Aleppo from the HTS, which entered the town on February 22. The armed group claimed that its fighters had captured 70 fighters of the HTS inside the town. However, Iba’a denied all of these claims and confirmed that Kafrnaha is still under the control of the HTS fighters.
Meanwhile, the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) threatened in an official statement that it will support HTS against the SLF and its allies if they develop their attack against HTS. The radical group said that it “will not allow the loss of the gains achieved by the blessed jihad on the land of Sham [Syria] after all of these sacrifices,” according to the Syrian pro-opposition news outlet Enab Baladi.
In response to the TIP threat, the SLF released an official statement in which it praised the role of the TIP in Syria and called on the TIP leadership to be more “fair” regarding the recent crisis in northern Syria.
Observers viewed the SLF statement as a sign of weakness and doubted that the SLF will be able to stand in the face of the TIP, if it decides to intervene on the side of HTS.