A former senior commander of the Ahrar al-Sham Movement known as Abu Islam Bassams was the main target of the artillery strikes which targeted the town of Arihah in the northwestern Syrian region of Greater Idlib in the morning of October 20, according to Syrian sources.
The commander was killed in the strikes, which were attributed to the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), while his son was severely wounded.
Today’s strikes on Ariha targeted Abu Islam Bsamis, an Ahrar al-Sham leader who used to command the group’s al-Abbas Brigade. pic.twitter.com/ac6qiJOTIL
— Within Syria (@WithinSyriaBlog) October 20, 2021
Abu Islam was the commander of the al-Abbas Brigade, one of four large units that defected from Ahrar al-Sham and joined the Turkish-backed al-Shamiya Front last August.
The commander may have joined the al-Shamiya Front or al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the de-facto ruler of Greater Idlib, after leaving Ahrar al-Sham. Arihah is known to be a stronghold of HTS.
Some opposition sources reported the artillery strikes on Arihah as a random act of violence that targeted children in the town. Abu Islam and his son were not mentioned at all by these sources.
HTS and its allies responded to the artillery strikes by shelling several SAA positions around Greater Idlib. Nevertheless, no losses were reported.
The SAA and its allies have been hunting down commanders in Greater Idlib for a while now. The army may soon kick off a ground operation in the region to reinforce the ceasefire agreement which was brokered by Russia and Turkey last year.