Issued by CEMO Center - Paris
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Internal betrayals and external strikes: Tahrir al-Sham exposed to worst scenario

Saturday 08/July/2023 - 09:30 PM
The Reference
Aya Ezz

In light of the rapid developments in Syria, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) is facing major security challenges from external parties seeking to strike at its power and influence in Syria.

HTS faces governmental and non-governmental adversaries, including Russia, Iran, the United States, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Syrian opposition, allies, and ISIS. These parties have launched military, air and missile attacks on HTS’s sites and bases in an attempt to reduce its geographical area and weaken its combat capabilities.


Several breakthroughs

HTS was also subjected to several security breaches by external parties targeting its leaders, members and information. In August 2019, unknown gunmen assassinated Abu Abdullah al-Masri, the deputy leader of al-Qaeda, in his car in Idlib.

In January 2020, Abu Tariq al-Tunisi, an armed commander in HTS, was killed in a US airstrike that targeted his car near the city of Binnish.

In July 2020, HTS arrested dozens of its members on charges of communicating with Turkish intelligence, the international coalition, Hezbollah, or Syrian intelligence.

These breaches came within the framework of a raging intelligence war between HTS and its enemies, in which it uses methods of espionage, disruption, assassination and extortion.

These cases were not the first of their kind. In previous years, HTS witnessed cases of internal liquidation of suspects or violators of its policies.



In recent weeks, HTS witnessed a series of betrayals, defections and arrests that increased the state of chaos and division within its ranks, and these betrayals sparked discontent and anger among HTS leaders and fighters and weakened its position. The beginning of these betrayals dates back to the end of last June, when a number of HTS leaders and fighters announced their defection from it.

The dissidents justified their decision by saying that HTS had deviated from its original principles and goals and was now seeking a settlement with the legitimate Syrian regime and the international community, in addition to suppressing extremist groups that reject this settlement.

In response to these defections, HTS launched a massive arrest campaign against suspects, detaining more than 200 people, including prominent leaders such as the deputy leader of the Shura Council, Abu Yahya al-Masri, and the commander of the Houran sector, Abu Hamza bin Laden.



In a related context, Idlib Governorate witnessed violent clashes between HTS and Hurras al-din (Guardians of the Religion), which accuses HTS of treason and collusion with Turkey and Russia.

These clashes resulted in dozens of deaths and injuries on both sides, amid fears of an escalation of confrontations in the future. These betrayals, defections, arrests and clashes come in light of a state of tension in Idlib Governorate.

In light of these dangers, HTS appears to be in a state of confusion and weakness and unable to maintain its ranks or confront its opponents.