Four small Free Syrian Army groups operating within the Idlib de-escalation zone have merged with the Turkish-backed militant group Faylaq al-Sham, according to their statements released this week.
These very groups were closely allied with Nour al-Din al-Zinki, which was recently defeated by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) in the area. Experts link this move with their attempt to save themselves from a possible Hayat Tahrir al-Sham attack.
Meanwhile, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which currently controls most of the “de-escalation zone”, is working to consolidate forces of militant groups, which are still not under direct control of its leadership. The group is reportedly working to strengthen positions in northwestern Hama, from which the defeated members of the Turkish-backed National Front for Liberation are set to withdraw.