On February 2, the Ahrar al-Sham Movement’s general commander in the area of the towns of al-Fu’ah and Kafriya, “Osama Kharitah” [also known as “Abu Zaid al-Askari”] was assassinated. According to Syrian opposition sources, al-Askari and his cousin “Tariq Kharita”, also a commander of Ahrar al-Sham, were both killed when an IED hit their car around al-Fu’ah and Kafriya north of the city of Saraqib in the eastern Idlib countryside.
Only hours before the assassination, the Ahrar al-Sham Movement and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) deployed more units around al-Fu’ah and Kafriya and in Saraqib.
Several Syrian opposition activists held the Syrian and Russian intelligence the responsibility for the assassination, especially that the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is currently advancing towards al-Fu’ah and Kafriya. However, other sources believe that the assassination was carried out by ISIS or even HTS.
The assassination of al-Askari will likely further complicate the already tense situation in Idlib governorate. Many militant supporters in Idlib are currently blaiming the Ahrar al-Sham Movement and HTS for their inability to stop the SAA advance in the governorate and accusing their leaders of being agents of the Syrian and Russian intelligence.
Some villages in southern and eastern Idlib like Binnish and Ghadfah even witnessed protests against HTS and the Ahrar al-Sham Movement on February 2.