Russia stepped up its confrontation of the moderate military opposition yesterday when it targeted the leader of Jaysh Al-Islam Zahran Alloush in raids which killed him and a number of the organisation’s leaders. Activists said that the airstrikes were carried out by the Russians and targeted a meeting that was taking place. Jaysh Al-Islam is considered the most powerful organisation in the vicinity of the Syrian capital. A military opposition source in eastern Ghouta told Asharq Al-Awsat that Alloush’s assistant known as “Azi’baq” was killed in the same raid and denied that the spokesperson for Jaysh al-Islam Islam Alloush had been killed, saying that “he was far away from the site of the raid”. Activists also said that Hamza Bayraqdar, a speaker for Jaysh Al-Islam, was also killed in the same raid.
In a later development Essam Al-Boudani, who is also known as Abu Hamam, was appointed as Zahran Alloush’s successor according to sources on the ground. Al-Boudani hails from the city of Douma and is one of the most important and prominent leaders of Jaysh Al-Islam. He was appointed as the new leader of the organisation after a leadership council meeting.
The Syrian opposition considers the incident a “Russian assassination of Geneva 3 and a coup de grâce to the efforts of the UN to resume a political settlement” in the country, and that it came as “a response to the opposition meeting in Riyadh”.
Amjad Farakh, a leader of the Syrian opposition who had a personal relationship with Zahran Alloush, his family and the leaders of Jaysh Al-Islam, said that the matter of assassinations is “not a new one and will not greatly affect the movement and its work despite the fact that Alloush was blessed with a charismatic personality which is an exception on the Syrian scene. We have lost a pillar of the Syrian revolution”. He added that “from my personal experience of the Jaysh Al-Islam leaders, they are tougher than people think, and behind Alloush there is a strong leadership that will hold on tight to the reins of power and continue working”.