Established by Fathi Ibrahim Bayoud 2005 - Homs

Maarret al-Nu'man residents, rebels refuse to surrender to al-Qaeda group

Local | 2019-01-09 12:27:00
Maarret al-Nu'man residents, rebels refuse to surrender to al-Qaeda group
 (Zaman Al Wasl)- People and rebel factions of Maarret al-Nu'man have refused the hand over their town to Tahrir al-Sham as the former al-Qaeda branch seeks to gripe the noose on most of northern western Syria.

 Sources told Zaman al-Wasl that rebels and residents of town have fired Tharir al-Sham militants who came to negotiate the hand over.

Meanwhile, the Turkish-backed rebel army has deployed along frontlines close to Tahrir al-Sham to repel any new militant advance after an offensive that expanded their control over the country's last rebel-held bastion.

Tahrir al-Sham Sunday entered the town of Atareb, days after capturing from their mainstream rivals the strategic town of Darat Izza, both in the western Aleppo countryside, in a military campaign that has since spread across Idlib and areas near the Turkish border.

A convoy of HTS fighters entered the densely populated town after forcing its leaders to hand over control by threatening to storm it if mainstream rebels opposed to their hardline Islamist ideology do not leave.

Tahrir al-Sham seized more than 20 villages from rival rebels in the northern province of Aleppo.

Those areas lie in the northeast of Syria's last major rebel bastion, which includes a large part of Idlib province as well as adjacent parts of Aleppo and Hama provinces.

The offensive by HTS has alarmed the National Army, the main Turkish-backed rebel force aimed at unifying disparate factions in the northwest.

"We took a decision to repel the aggression by Tahrir al Sham on the Aleppo and Idlib countryside," their spokesman Maj. Youssef Hamoud said. "We are reinforcing areas to prevent their expansion and control of more villages and towns."

The National Army compromises about 35,000 fighters from some of the biggest factions in a war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced 11 million people from their homes over the last seven years.

The militants have been the dominant force in rebel-held Idlib province and also have a civil administration that runs basic services in many towns including Idlib city, the provincial capital.

Ideological differences divide them from nationalist groups in the Free Syrian Army gathered under the banner of the National Army and the National Liberation Front (NLF), both backed by Turkey.

The rebel cause to topple President Bashar Assad has been plagued by turf wars and local rivalries.

"Tahrir al Sham seek to end the presence of the NLF and control all of Idlib," Hamoud said.

He echoed the view of military experts that the territorial gains would help widen the militants' grip over a strip along the northern border with Turkey to their strongholds further south in the western Aleppo countryside.

Hamoud also accused the militants of attempting to divert their forces from any Turkish army campaign to seize the city of Manbij and Arab towns located east of the Euphrates River, controlled by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militias.

Observers say formerly known as Nusra Front takes the attack policy as the only way to defend its existence as regional powers agree to uproot militant groups from northern Syria.

Since the revolution erupted in 2011, more than 560,000 people have been killed, and more than 6 million people have been displaced.

Zaman Al Wasl, Agencies

Zaman Al Wasl
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