DAMASCUS, SYRIA (1:30 A.M.) – Clashes erupted throughout Idlib’s countryside again on Wednesday after a short-lived ceasefire between Ahrar Al-Sham and Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS/Al-Qaeda) fell apart the day before.
With the infighting suddenly reaching unprecedented levels, HTS retook Salqin town and the Sharia court building on its outskirts after dislodging Ahrar Al-Sham from the area. Furthermore, HTS fighters overran Al-Dana town in the afternoon hours.
In the southern countryside, HTS also recaptured the city of Saraqib after heavy clashes with Ahrar Al-Sham that saw three of their commanders arrested, identified by Al-Masdar News as Abu Izzam Saraqib, Abdo Al-Zaeem and Abu Obaidah Al-Hamwi.
On Wednesday evening however, huge protests broke out in several neighborhoods of Saraqib as thousands took to the streets to demand Al-Qaeda’s departure. HTS responded with brute force, shooting dead three non-combattants, including opposition journalist Mosaab Izzo.
On the other hand, two Ahrar Al-Sham branches, namely the Al-Hujra Brigade and Fajr Al-Islam Brigade, announced they had defected to HTS.
With Al-Qaeda gradually achieving hegemony across all of Idlib, persistent rumours indicate that Turkey is prepared to launch a cross-border invasion in support of less hardline Islamist groups. This looming offensive, much similar to last year’s Euphrates Wrath campaign, would put Turkish troops and their allies face-to-face with tens of thousands of HTS militants.