DAMASCUS, SYRIA (12:10 P.M.) – On Tuesday, the Syrian Al-Qaeda branch Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) began a major crackdown on its former ally Harakat Nour Al-Din Al-Zenki, prompting a series of shootouts and arrests between the two opposition groups.
According to an official statement released by Harakat Nour Al-Din Al-Zenki, HTS attacked a large group of its fighters from behind near the frontline in northern Aleppo, stealing all their weapons and assuming control of their forward positions.
In retaliation, Harakat Nour Al-Din Al-Zenki arrested HTS members elsewhere in the governorate which in turn prompted a large HTS convoy to move from the provincial capital of Idlib towards bases and command centers belonging to Harakat Nour Al-Din Al-Zenki in the countryside.
In a major and sudden escalation, HTS then launched an assault with tanks and heavy weaponry on the towns of Al-Dana and Atmeh in addition to the 46th Regiment Base. Clashes then continued into the night with both parties claiming dozens of casualties on the opposite side of the battlefield.
Unless immediate talks are held to negotiate a ceasefire between HTS and Harakat Nour Al-Din Al-Zenki, two of the most powerful Syrian rebel groups will be at each other’s throats.
Harakat Nour Al-Din Al-Zenki had otherwise joined HTS when it formed in late January but then defected six months later as a jihadist civil war broke out between HTS and Ahrar Al-Sham, causing widespread tensions and mistrust between all involved factions.