On April 29, the al-Qaeda-affiliated militant groups Horas al-Din and Ansar al-Tawhid announced in an official statement that they are merging their forces to form a new armed group in northern Syria under the name of “Hilf Nusrat al-Islam”. The two groups didn’t clarify the aims of the new group in their official statement.
Horas al-Din was established on February 27 by Jaysh al-Malahem, Jaysh al-Badiyah, Jaysh al-Sahel, Saraya al-Sahel, Saryat Kabul Jun al- Sharia and cells of Jund al-Aqsa. Back then, the group vowed to support militants in the Eastern Ghouta region, which is now fully controlled by the Syrian Army.
The second group, Ansar al-Tawhid, was established in March by several cells that had defected from the Jund al-Aqsa. The group’s heartland is Sarmin town in the southeastern Idlib countryside.
HINT: Jund al-Aqsa has deep links with ISIS and a major part of the group has merged with ISIS forces.
According to local observers, Horas al-Din and Ansar al-Tawhid formed the new group to take advantage of the current weakness of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). Over the last year, HTS has lost a large part of its assets and resources in failed battles against the Syrian Army and the Syrian Liberation Front (a competing militant group in Idlib province).