On December 17, Jaysh al-Islam executed 45 fighters of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) who were captured during previous clashes between the two armed groups in Damascus’ Eastern Ghouta region, according to the Hezbollah media wing in Syria.
Syrian oppositions activists said that seven foreign fighters were among the executed Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham members. One of them was “al-Mula Abu Bakr”, an explosives expert who fought alongside with the infamous al-Qaeda leader “Abu Musab al-Zarqawi” in Afghanistan.
Jaysh al-Islam didn’t confirm these claims. However, it doesn’t usually announce executions to the public. The execution was viewed by may opposition activists as a step to please Russia and the Damascus government as well as the main backers of Jaysh al-Islam, the US and Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, the Syrian al-Watan newspaper reported that the agreement to evacuate HTS fighters from Eastern Ghouta to the governorate of Idlib had failed due to a disagreement between HTS and Jaysh al-Islam. The disagreement is likely linked to the execution.
According to al-Watan, HTS fighters, including 200 foreigners were set to leave Eastern Ghouta in the early morning of December 17. However, Jaysh al-Islam blocked their way for unknown reasons.
From its side, an official of Jaysh al-Islam denied that several buses arrived to the al-Wafddien camp east of Damascus to transport HTS fighters to Idlib governorate on December 16. However, the official confirmed that negotiations are ongoing to expel HTS from the eastern Ghouta region soon.
The expelling of HTS from Eastern Ghouta will allow to secure the de-escalation agreement in the region. However, some foreign powers involved in the conflict are clearly not intersted in the stabilization of the situation in the Damascus countryside.