On October 1, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) announced in an official statement that its leader Abu Jaber Shaykh have resigned from his position. Abu Jaber was named the leader of HTS back when it was established on January 28. The appointment of Abu Jaber was described by a Syrian opposition activist as a “propaganda stunt” by HTS to promote itself as a moderate armed group.
In the statement HTS announced also that Abu Mohammad al-Julani replaced al-Skha as its leader. Al-Julani was before the “top military commander” of HTS. However, opposition activists said that al-Julani has been a de-facto leader of HTS since the beginning.
Furthermore, HTS announced that Abu Jaber was appointed as the head of its Shura Council that’s responsible for HTS internal issues mainly. It’s believed that HTS is trying by this move to place a responsibility on the supposed the Abu Jaber administration for its latest mistakes including the HTS-leaks, and the failed attack in the northern Hama countryside.
Meanwhile, Ibn Taymiyyah Battalions announced its defection from HTS in an official statement. Ibn Taymiyyah Battalions claimed that it took its decision in response to the HTS-leaks that showed how the HTS leadership disrespected its religious scholars.
However, pro-HTS activists claimed that the defection of Ibn Taymiyyah Battalions and the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement became possible because HTS took the weapons of these group without their approval. On September 19, HTS indeed used a T-90 battle tank that was previously captured by the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement in Aleppo from government forces.
On September 29, another militant group, Liwa Shuhada al-Ghab, announced its defection from HTS.
These defections will not likely have any significant impact on HTS, as HTS accepted these groups in the first place only to take over their weapons, especially the weapons that were supplied by the United States (for example TOW ATGMs).