On April 15th, 27 members of Maghawir al-Thawra, a militant group in the Al-Tanf zone, which is both funded and trained by the US-led coalition, surrendered to the Syrian Army with all of their weapons and equipment. These included 9 vehicles, 11 weapons including 4 heavy machine guns and 5 grenade launchers, as well as up to 7,000 rounds of ammunition of various calibers for small arms, more than 20 RPG rounds, and 6 high-tech communication devices.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, while the Maghawir al-Thawra members were moving to surrender, they were attacked by US-controlled forces and lost 3 vehicles.
Oleg Zhuravlev, chief of the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria said militants confessed that “they had been trained by US instructors to commit acts of sabotage at the oil-and-gas and transport infrastructure facilities, as well as to organize terror attacks on territories controlled by Syrian government forces.”
Later on the same day, Russian and Turkish forces conducted a 4th joint patrol along the M4 highway in southeastern Idlib. As on the previous occasions, the patrol took place along a short chunk of the highway west of Saraqib. The rest of the safe zone area agreed by Russian and Turkish leaders on March 5 in Moscow remains in the hands of radical militant groups.
In an official statement released on April 14, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham announced that it had formed 3 new units: the Talhah ibn Ubaydullah Brigade, led by Abu Hafs Binnish, the Ali ibn Abi Talib Brigade, led by Abu Baker Mheen and the Zubayr ibn al-Awam Brigade, led by Abu Mohamad Shura. The group provided no insight into the number of fighters in the new units or their tasks, but the estimated number of the new force is about 1,500.
Last month, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham launched a large recruitment campaign to revive its depleted special forces, the “Red Bands,” as well as its Inghimasi [suicide bombers] force.
Despite the fact that militants profit from the ceasefire regime with direct military protection from Turkey and are using the gained time to re-arm their units and train new fighters, they see any kind of Turkish cooperation with Russia as a direct threat to their interests. In some cases, this even leads to acts of aggression and threats against their sponsor’s forces.
For example, in a video which recently appeared online, members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham were threatening to behead Turkish soldiers moving along the M4 highway and pin their heads to the top of the nearby earth barrier. This is the real face of the so-called moderate opposition that Ankara supports in Greater Idlib.
On April 15, an airstrike targeted an SUV in the town of Jdaidit Yabws right on the border with Lebanon. The vehicle allegedly belonged to Hezbollah, which has become the target of Israeli missiles. The first one missed allowing the passengers to exit the vehicle a few moments before it was hit by the second missile.
The UAE-based Sky News Arabia and al-Arabiya claimed that high-ranking commanders of Hezbollah were the target of the Israeli strike.