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Rebel Factions’ Fighting Near Turkish Border Calls on Mediation Efforts | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Syrians wait at a checkpoint at the Syrian border crossing of Bab al-Hawa on the Syrian-Turkish border in Idlib province, Jan. 21, 2015. (photo by REUTERS/Abed Kontar)

Beirut- Battles erupted on Friday in northern Syria near the Turkey border crossing, Bab al Hawa.

The rebel stronghold in Idlib has emerged as a fierce battlefield between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an alliance led by al-Qaeda’s former Syria branch, and the more moderate Ahrar al-Sham plus mainstream rebel factions.

For its part Turkey threatened with deploying Free Syrian Army units to settle the infighting.

Later in that evening,  a report was released on an agreement being reached among warring parties. The settlement over the border crossing was provided that an independent civil administration is formed.

Ahrar al-Sham said in an online statement that under the ceasefire, it and other rebel factions would “leave the Bab al-Hawa crossing and turn it over to civilian administration”.

Local sources also pointed out that Ahrar al-Sham intends on dissolving itself. Fighters would then join Tahrir al-Sham.
The clashes have been the heaviest yet between the two sides who have long vied for influence in the only province in Syria that is entirely under rebel control.
Tahrir al-Sham had on Friday advanced in several areas, including towards Bab al-Hawa, an important supply route for Turkish-backed rebels fighting under the FSA banner.
An AFP correspondent in the province also reported heavy clashes on the outskirts of the town of Binnish and attempts by HTS to break into the village of Ram Hamdan.

HTS and Ahrar once formed the backbone of the Army of Conquest that captured most of Idlib province from the regime in 2015.
But tensions between the two factions have been rising for some time and the latest clashes erupted in part over Ahrar’s attempts to fly the flag of the Syrian revolution in the provincial capital Idlib city.
HTS is dominated by the Fateh al-Sham faction, which was previously known as Al-Nusra Front before dropping its official designation as Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate.
The clashes have been accompanied by sporadic demonstrations against HTS in several parts of the province, including in the town of Sarmada where the jihadists on Wednesday and Thursday opened fire on protests against them.

Both sides had set up new checkpoints, and the fighting has turned parts of the province into virtual ghost towns with residents staying at home for fear of being caught in the fighting.