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Fighting Renewed between Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham in Idlib Countryside | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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People inspect the damage at a site hit by airstrikes in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib on June 2, 2016. Reuters

Beirut- The fighting that took place Tuesday between Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, commonly referred to as Tahrir al-Sham, which includes factions like Fath al-Sham (former Nusra Front) from one hand and Ahrar al-Sham, on the other hand, has reached a new level in the long-standing tense relationship between the opposing factions.

It was clear, according to experts and analysts who have been following the developments there, that it is a make or break battle between the two factions and might turn the eyes to Idlib in the coming period, especially if the Free Syrian Army (FSA) decided to join Ahrar al-Sham in an attempt to expel the Nusra Front from the governorate.

Field sources reported that Tahrir al-Sham took control of Ahrar al-Sham’s checkpoint along Hawarin-Kafr Nabal road, the town of Hazarin and another checkpoint at the Western entrance of the town of Kafruma in Southern Idlib.

The sources said that Ahrar al-Sham dispatched more forces and equipment to the town of Hazarin in Idlib’s countryside to attack the positions of Tahrir al-Sham.

Also, Tahrir al-Sham sent a large volume of military hardware to the villages of Jabal al-Zaweiyeh.

Based on the field reports Tahrir al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham have engaged in heavy fighting in the villages of Jabal al-Zawiyeh up to the village of Haas.

The reports added that the two warring groups have gone on full alert in Bab al-Hawa passageway and Northern Idlib.

Sources close to the opposing groups disclosed that Tahrir al-Sham Commander Abu Mohammad al-Joulani was preparing for a vast war against Ahrar al-Sham, adding that al-Joulani intended to impose control over large territories that were under Ahrar al-Sham to lay siege on Saraqeb in the east, Dana and Sarmada in the northeast and Bab al-Hawa near the Turkish border.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighter from the two sides were engaged in clashes across the province in northwest Syria that killed 11 fighters and three civilians in the last 24 hours.

“These are the most violent and widespread clashes that have taken place between Ahrar al-Sham and Tahrir al-Sham,” Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman said.

“The clashes are ongoing across all of the provinces, with territory changing hands… It’s an existential battle,” he added.

The two groups have clashed before, despite having previously formed the backbone of the alliance that captured most of Idlib in early 2015.

The latest conflict arisen partly out of a dispute over Ahrar al-Sham’s desire to fly the flag of the Syrian uprising in Idlib city, the Observatory said.