BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:30 P.M.) – The Harakat Noor al-Din al-Zenki Islamist faction, one of biggest FSA-linked groups within the Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) coalition, has announced their defection from the jihadist conglomerate in favor of joining Ahrar al-Sham.
In an official statement, the Islamist group rationalized their decision, claiming that it was unsatisfied with the HTS coalition’s aggression towards Ahrar al-Sham and the outright refusal of HTS commanders to seek common ground with Ahrar al-Sham.
The statement went on to add that despite joining ranks with Ahrar al-Sham, the Islamist group intended to stay clear of any and all infighting between Ahrar al-Sham and HTS, clarifying that the point of their existence was not to fight other rebel factions, but only the Syrian government and the forces allied to it.
In July of 2016, Noor al-Din al-Zenki became well known, even in the Western mainstream media, when some of its top members beheaded a twelve year old Palestinian child on camera with a hunting knife. The child was falsely accused of being a member of an ethnic Palestinian pro-government faction fighting in the city.
At that time, the group was openly vetted by the United States and Turkey under the assumption that it was a “moderate” opposition faction. Its military support from the US included the provision of American-built TOW anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) systems.
In January 2017, Noor al-Din al-Zenki merged into the then newly-formed HTS conglomerate, effectively aligning itself with hard-line jihadists.
As of now, the Islamist group is leaving HTS to join ranks with Ahrar al-Sham, a rebel coalition which Turkey continues to support with weapons and money.
Full statement on the matter: