BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:10 P.M.) – A series of renewed attacks by ISIS against Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra; the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda) in northwest Syria has seen forces of the self-declared caliphate make major gains up the length of a key highway that runs between the cities of Hama to Aleppo.
After nearly two weeks of inactivity, ISIS militants operating in Hama province’s northern countryside burst forward from their positions several days ago capturing over a dozen villages and towns from Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham in rapid succession.
During this process, the small ISIS bastion in the region has also expanded control over a major highway that runs from Hama to Aleppo via Tal ad-Daman adding a degree of strategic value to its latest conquests.
Furthermore, not only has ISIS been gaining ground against Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham, but it has also been inflicting horrific losses against the rival jihadist organization. A surprise raiding operation three days ago saw Islamic State militants kill nearly three dozen Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham fighters.
Although sharing a virtually identical ideology to Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham, the Islamic State’s presence in and around has been bitterly contested for years now.
Even prior to ISIS establishing a proper military toe-hold in rebel-held northwest Syria around two months ago, Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham launched constant crack downs to weed out and exterminate the Islamic State sleeper agents operating throughout the region.