Idlib Province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: the SOHR received a copy of a new agreement concluded last night, the 23rd of July 2017, between Ahrar Al-Sham Islamic Movement and Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham following renewed tensions and clashes in the city and its countryside though they had reached an agreement on Friday, the 21st of July 2017: The new agreement provides for:
1- Getting back to the agreement reached between both parties on Friday;
2- Putting an end to the state of alert, harassment, arrests, and all other forms of harm inflicted on people and property.
3- All offences omitted after Friday agreement shall be addressed within a maximum period of 5 days.
4- Any battalion or brigade that was forced to pledge allegiance to Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham has the right to retract.
The SOHR learned that Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham, along with Turkistan Islamic Party, managed last night to take control of Khirbet Al-Joz crossing to Liwa Iskenderun, which is located in the western countryside of Idlib. The same sources informed the SOHR that they were able to seize control of the crossing following the withdrawal of Ahrar Al-Sham Islamic Movement, amid sounds of shootings in the crossing area during their withdrawal. The SOHR activists also learned that clashes broke out between Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham on one hand and Ahrar Al-Sham Islamic Movement on the other in Al-Za’eniya village, which is the stronghold of the Movement in the western countryside of Jisr Al-Shughur, near the administrative border with Al-Lattakia countryside, and which contains a prison and a Sharia Court affiliated with the Movement. Specifically, Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham carried out an attack on positions of Ahrar Al-Sham in the village and managed to take control of a checkpoint there. Al-Za’eniya is now experiencing cautious calm following these clashes.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights published that Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham has taken control along with the Islamic Turkestani Party of Khirbat al-Joz border crossing with the Iskenderun, located in the western countryside of Idlib, the Syrian Observatory was informed by the same sources that this process of control came after the withdrawal of the Islamic movement of Ahrar Al-Sham from the crossing, amid the hearing of gunfire in the crossing area during the withdrawal process, the activists of the Syrian Observatory also learned that clashes took place between Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham against the Islamic Movement of Ahrar Al-Sham in the village of Za’eniya the stronghold of Ahrar al-Sham in the western countryside of Jisr Al-Shughur near the administrative border with the countryside of Latakia, which includes a prison and Sharia Court for Ahrar Sham, and Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham has also carried out an attack on sites of Ahrar al-Sham in the village and managed to control a checkpoint, while a state of cautious calm prevails Za’eniya village after these clashes.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had also published that 11 people including 9 members of Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham were killed by a booby trapped vehicle explosion in several vehicles of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham near al-Ziraa roundabout area in city Idlib, and the death toll is expected to rise because there are some people in critical situation.
The SOHR also published that the city of Idlib is witnessing a state of alert, amid tensions in the city because of the withdrawal of the Islamic Movement of Ahrar Al-Sham from the city towards the southern countryside of Idlib. In addition, there is the fact that they were expelled from institutions and administrations of Idlib city and that Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham managed to take control of the city and the checkpoints scattered between the city and the rest of the villages and towns east and north of the city. The activists of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitored the spread of checkpoints of fighters of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham in the vicinity of the city and at its entrances, whereas the checkpoints and locations affiliated with the fighters of Ahrar al-Sham were left empty as tens of vehicles and cars and hundreds of members were observed withdrawing from Idlib city to the southern countryside of Idlib. The withdrawal of the Islamic Movement of Ahrar Al-Sham marks its first loss of its military presence as a dominant force in most of the north of Idlib, its eastern countryside and in the city of Idlib for it was mainly involved in the process of controlling the entire Province of Idlib during the first third of 2015. Reliable sources confirmed that the withdrawal of Ahrar al-Sham was towards the southern sector of Idlib province, and to Sahl Al-Ghab area in the northwestern countryside of Hama. However, contradictory information was reported about the party controlling Bennesh city, near the towns of Al-Fu’ah and Kafriya, which are inhabited by Shiite citizens in the northeast countryside of Idlib, where the absence of members of Ahrar al-Sham was noted and an attempt by Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham to impose its control over it.
In the same context, 2 powerful explosions shocked Idlib city amid the sounds of intense gunfire which the sources said that it might be caused by an exchange of gunfire between fighters within the city. So far, no information about the identities of the warring groups has been reported. The clashes concentrated in the vicinity of the Al-Ziraa roundabout and Idlib’s Security building. Cross sources suggested that one of the explosions may have been caused by an explosion of a booby trapped vehicle near several vehicles of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham, near Al-Ziraa roundabout area. In addition, a person was killed and about 30 others were injured in an explosion of 2 IEDs at Al-Sa’aa roundabout in the city.
Calm prevails all over Idlib Province since the sunset yesterday, Friday the 21st of July 2017, except for some clashes that took place yesterday between Hayyaat Ahrar Al-Sham and the Manufacturing Battalion, which defected earlier from the Movement, at the outskirts of Idlib. Such calm followed an agreement that was reached between the Islamic Movement of Ahrar Al-Sham and Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham, in the wake of the most intense and widespread fighting between both parties in several areas in Idlib province, leaving tens of casualties, among civilian and fighters. Both parties agreed to a ceasefire, release the detained by both parties, and also to evacuate Bab Al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey from the factions and hand it over to a civilian administration to run and oversee its affairs.
The fight involved seizure of control and withdrawals by the Islamic Movement of Ahrar Al-Sham as well as Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham, while most of the factions operating in the area and battalions and groups affiliated with both parties remained neutral and stayed out of this fight. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights observed that Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham took control of Sarmada, Harem, Ram Hamdan, Saraqeb, al-Ftirah , Kafr Owaid, and the villages of Tramla, Karsa’aa, al-Faqie’a, Maarrat al-Sien, Qassabiyyeh, B’aarbo in Shashabo Mountain, Dana, Salqin, Jarjanaz, Ma’ershmarin and Ma’asaran east of Maarrat Al-Nu’man, and Atmah, Qah, Aqrabat, Bab Al-Hawa and its surroundings, Al-Hbit, Abdeen, Hersh Abdeen, Kafr Yahmoul, Maarrat Mesrin and Maarrat Hermeh, while the factions were evacuated from Saraqeb and Maarrat al-Nu’man, but their control moved to Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham. It also took control of Darat Azza town in the western countryside of Aleppo when Battalions controlling the town pledged allegiance to Tahrir Al-Sham. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented the death of 92 people, both fighters and civilians, in this fight. Specifically, 77 members and fighters of the Islamic Movement of Ahrar Al-Sham and Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham, all of whom were killed in executions, shootings and targeting and during clashes between them since the beginning of the fighting. In addition, at least 15 civilians, including 4 children and 7 civilians including an activist, a man, a woman, a girl, another man and his child and 4 other persons were killed in the shelling, clashes and targeting between both parties since the outbreak of the fighting.