On September 13, Jaish al-Ahrar armed group announced its defection from Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in an official statement. In the statement, Jaish al-Ahrar claimed that the decision was taken due to internal disagreement in HTS, especially the disrespect shown by HTS towards its religious scholars.
Furthermore, Jaish al-Arar said that a joint committee with HTS was formed to solve any problem that could appear as a result the defection. This means that although Jaish al-Ahrar defected from HTS, it did it not make HTS its enemy.
Jaish al-Ahrar is considered one of the biggest armed groups within HTS and in Idlib governorate in general. The group was founded in 2016 to support the Ahrar al-Sham Movement. However, it joined HTS later.
Syrian opposition activists believe that the defection of Jaish al-Ahrar is another result of the the HTS leaks.
In the leaks, HTS top commanders like Abu Mariya al-Qahtani and Abu Mohammad al-Julani conspired to eliminate the Ahra al-Sham Movement in Idlib.
Moreover, in the leaks the commanders insult the well-known Saudi religious scholar Abdullah al-Muhaysini. A religious scholar of Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement also revealed previously that al al-Julani conspired to establish relationships with Iran.
The Jaish al-Ahrar defection comes after al Muhaysini and Muslih al-Ulyani – extreme religious scholars – announced their defection from HTS on September 11. Syrian opposition activists believe that Jaish al-Ahrar won’t be the last group defected from HTS.
While the HTS public image in Idlib governorate is under attack, HTS is still to this moment the strongest military force in the governorate. Moreover, it’s very unlikely that any armed group in Idlib has a power to challege HTS without a direct support from Turkey or the USA or even Russia.