DAMASCUS, SYRIA (3:00 PM) – At least five Syrian rebel groups associated with the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) organisation, a coalition of Syrian rebels closely linked to Al-Qaeda, have announced their defection, marking another episode in a recent string of defections affecting HTS.
The announcement comes in the wake of the recent resignation of ‘Abdullah Al-Muhaysni from the movement. Al-Muhaysni, a Saudi cleric who was formerly the head of the HTS Shariah Courts, resigned from the group yesterday, allegedly in protest over announced reforms within Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham.
In a similar move, ten senior rebel commanders also chose to defect from several rebel groups a few days ago, and surrendered to Syrian government forces following extensive negotiations with the Russian Centre for the Reconciliation of Opposing Sides.
So far, five of the recently defected rebel groups linked to HTS have been identified. According to reports, these groups are the Al-Ansar and Muhajireen regiments based in Sarmada, the Siyouf Al-Islam regiment that was active in western Aleppo Governorate, the Abu Rabee regiment based in the Shahshabo mountain area in Hama; and lastly the so-called 1st regiment based in the countryside of both Idlib and Aleppo.
Local sources claim that it is expected that several other HTS-linked rebel groups are likely to announce their resignation or defection from the organisation as well in the coming couple of days. A move that could herald the beginning of the end for Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham.