On October 14, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra; HTS) released an official statement, in which it vowed to continue its “Jihad” [the Islamic term for holy war] against the Damascus government and refused to give up its arms or to ditch its foreign fighters.
“We will not deviate from the option of jihad and fighting as a way to achieve the goals of our blessed revolution, first and foremost to bring down the criminal regime, free the prisoners and secure the return of the displaced to their country … Our weapons are a safety valve for the Sham revolution,” HTS statement said.
The radical group added that it appreciates the efforts of everyone who worked to protect its areas in a clear hint to Turkey. However, it warned from the “maneuvers of the Russian occupier and from trusting its intentions.”
“All the attempts of the criminal regime and its allies will fail and will be defeated, just like every other occupier throughout history,” HTS stated.
This was the first official statement of HTS since the announcement of the Turkish-Russian deconfliction agreement on the governorate of Idlib, which is controlled by the radical group. Local observers said the statement represents the group’s stand on the agreement.
While HTS didn’t deny that it had withdrawn its heavy weapons from the demilitarized area around Idlib, it firmly rejected to give up its arms and dissolve itself. This stand represents a middle ground between the views of the “radical” and “moderate” wings within the group.
HTS’ plan to accept and reject certain parts of the deconfliction agreement will likely jeopardize the entire process, especially that the radical group is determined to continue fighting against Damascus.