BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:10 A.M.) – In addition to the recent expansion of ISIS throughout northeast Hama province into the neighboring governorates of Aleppo and Idlib is also the growing strength of the terrorist group’s forces – a big part of this being due to defections from Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants.

Islamic State forces now present throughout the province of Hama, Idlib and Aleppo in northwest Syria are receiving a boost to their ranks by defecting fighters from the Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham militant group (formerly called Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda).

The development follows a series of major defeats for Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham in eastern Idlib province and a mass withdrawal of its forces from south Aleppo which have left an increasing number of the rebel faction’s jihadists disillusioned. Their response has been to turn to ISIS.

Almost one week ago, opposition activists in the Al-Hoss plateau region of southern Aleppo reported that a number of Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham fighters had defect to Islamic State forces in northeast Hama.

These specific defecting units are believed to have taken part in the first raid, of what has now been several raids, against Syrian army-led forces near the Abu Duhur military airport.

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