Bitter division continues in Syria as several rebel factions merge with al-Sham
REUTERS photoThe polarization of the long-divided fronts in the six-year-long war in Syria is continuing, as several armed factions decided to merge with the former al-Qaeda affiliate Jabet Fateh al-Sham.
Days after a number of factions announced they were merging into the strong rebel group Ahrar al-Sham, four Syrian rebel factions merged with Jabet Fateh al-Sham on Jan. 28, thus continuing the polarization of the long-divided fronts in the war in Syria.
The jihadist group Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as the al-Nusra Front, and four rebel factions - including the influential Nureddin al-Zinki faction - labelled the new alliance Tahrir al-Sham.
“In view of the plots shaking the Syrian revolution ... we announce the dissolution of all groups mentioned below and their total merger into a new entity named ‘Tahrir al-Sham,’” they said in a statement.
The Islamist factions Liwa al-Haq, the Ansar al-Din Front and Jaish al-Sunna also signed the declaration.
The new alliance, whose name means “Liberation of Syria,” emerged days after other rebel factions joined the powerful Ahrar al-Sham group.
The six factions joining Ahrar al-Sham include Alwiyat Suqour al-Sham, Kataib Thawar al-Sham, Jaish al-Mujahideen and Tajamo Fastaqim Kama Umirat, along with Jaish al-Islam’s Idlib branch and al-Jabha al-Shamiya’s west Aleppo branch.
Fateh al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham have for years battled side by side against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the northern province of Idlib, the last major bastion of the armed opposition.
But the former al-Qaeda affiliate - which is listed as a “terrorist” group by the United Nations and Western governments - has clashed with its erstwhile allies in recent days across Idlib and the neighboring Aleppo province.
Syrian army says it has retaken a key rebel area near Damascus
Meanwhile, the Syrian army said on Jan. 29 that it had recaptured a flashpoint area from rebels near Damascus that supplies water to the capital.
Wadi Barada had been the scene of fierce fighting in recent weeks between regime and rebel forces that tested a fragile nationwide truce and left millions in Damascus facing water shortages.
“Our armed forces ... have accomplished their mission by restoring security and stability in the region of Wadi Barada,” the army said in a statement carried by state television.
“Units of our armed forces, together with ... allied forces have achieved their mission in returning security and stability” to the area, the military said in a statement read out by a spokesman on Syrian state television.
The announcement came a day after the army entered the water pumping station in Wadi Barada for the first time in four years.
Under a deal with the authorities, rebels can choose to stay in the area but hand over their weapons, or leave to the northern province of Idlib, last major bastion of the armed opposition.