An internal crisis is developing within Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the most powerful armed group in Greater Idlib.
On April 7, Abu Malek al-Tali, one of the group’s most prominent field commanders, announced his resignation, claiming that he was being kept away from the decision making on the supposed shift of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s policies. According to pro-militant sources, al-Tali resigned as a result of disagreements with top members close to the group’s general commander, Abu Mohamad al-Julani.
Earlier, Bassam Suhyuni, head of the General Shura Council affiliated with the terrorist group, also announced his resignation, saying that he will clarify the reasons later. Suhyuni was reportedly managing “foreign relations” for al-Julani.
The internal struggle for power within Hayat Tahrir al-Sham has intensified since the Turkish Armed Forces’ failure to defeat the Syrian Army and allow militants to regain control of wide areas that they lost in southern and eastern Idlib. Idlib militants that had become used to huge flows of money, weapons and ammunitions seem unable to limit their appetites and demonstrate unity under the current conditions of limited resources.
On April 8, the Turkish Army and the Russian Military Police conducted a 3rd joint patrol along the M4 highway in southern Idlib. As in the previous 2 cases, the new patrol was a limited one and took place just west of the government-controlled town of Saraqib. The movement of the patrol along the M4 highway towards the supposedly created ‘safe zone’ in the area was once again blocked by supporters of Idlib radicals.
The Russian military deployed additional troops and equipment to their base in the al-Qamishli Airport area of Syria’s northeastern region. The reinforcements reportedly included 50 trucks and armored vehicles. The reinforcements were sent from the town of Ayn Issa in northern Raqqa, where the Russian Military Police maintains a coordination center with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The Russian reinforcements were escorted by two helicopters. Upon approaching the airport the convoy was chased by a U.S. patrol. The US military is apparently not happy with the growing military presence of the Russians in the area, which they believe is a part of their interests.
The Russian base in the al-Qamishli Airport was established last year following a breakthrough agreement between the Damascus government and the SDF. Initially, several opposition sources claimed that Russia will convert the airport to a full-scale military base to conduct operations in northeastern Syria. However, these claims were false. The main goal of Russian forces deployed there is to oversee the implementation of the Damascus-SDF agreement, as well as the implementation of the ceasefire regime near the area of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring.
Usbat al-Tha’ireen, a recently-formed Iraqi armed group, released a new video threatening U.S. forces in the country. The first part of the video includes aerial footage, apparently shot by a small drone, of the Ain Assad Air Base near the capital Baghdad, where hundreds of U.S.-led coalition troops are deployed. The footage shows U.S. cargo planes and helicopters parked at the base. The second part of the video demonstrates a C-130 cargo plane taking off from Ain Assad. The footage was apparently taken by an operative of the group driving near the air base.
Earlier in April, the group released a similar propaganda video featuring aerial footage of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone. Usbat al-Tha’ireen claimed responsibility for several rocket strikes on the US-operated military base Camp Taji and is apparently planning to conduct more attacks.