National Front for Liberation–Tahrir al-Sham conflict

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National Front for Liberation–Tahrir al-Sham conflict
Part of Idlib demilitarization and the inter-rebel conflict and Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War
2019 HTS-NFL conflict.svg
Situation in Idlib Governorate as of 10 January 2019.
  Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and allies control
  National Front for Liberation and allies control
  Syrian National Army control
  Syrian Army control
Date1–10 January 2019
(1 week and 2 days)
Result Decisive Hayat Tahrir al-Sham victory[6]
  • HTS extends its full administrative control over the entire NFL-held area at the Idlib, Aleppo, and Hama Governorates, after a signed agreement between HTS and NFL[6][7]
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham

National Front for Liberation Surrendered

 Russia (4 Jan.)[4][5]
Commanders and leaders
Abu Mohammad al-Julani (Emir of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham) Tawfiq Shahabuddin (Leader of the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement)
Cpt. Muammar Khattab (Jaysh al-Nasr commander) (POW)
"Abu Bassam" Duraid al-Najm (Jaysh al-Nasr commander)  (POW)[8][better source needed]
Units involved

Tahrir al-Sham

  • Special Forces Brigade[9][better source needed]
  • Levant Revolutionaries Battalion (from 6 Jan.)
  • Banners of Islam Movement (from 6 Jan.)

WataniaTahrirFlag.png National Front for Liberation

Syrian National Army[2]

Russian Armed Forces (4 Jan.)

Casualties and losses
68 killed[14]
13 captured[10]
61 killed[14]
10 captured[15][16]
8 civilians killed[17]

The National Front for Liberation–Tahrir al-Sham conflict began on 1 January 2019 during clashes between Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), after HTS launched an attack against the group in Darat Izza, Taqad, and Khan al-Asal fronts in rebel-held western Aleppo. The conflict ended on 10 January 2019, after the National Front for Liberation agreed to withdraw, allowing HTS to take over almost all of the remaining opposition-held areas of the Idlib pocket.[7][18][19]


Hayat Tahrir al-Sham attacked Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki in response to recent assassinations of HTS' members in the area of Darat Izza on behalf of the al-Zenki movement.[20][better source needed]


HTS attacks Nour al-Din al-Zenki[edit]

Clashes began on 1 January 2019 when HTS seized the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement controlled town of Darat Izza and several towns in Western Aleppo.[citation needed]

On 2 January Tahrir al-Sham fully captured Darat Izza, as well as Kafr Tin, Urum al-Kubra, Khan al-Assal, and Maklabis from the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement in western Aleppo. National front for Liberation released a statement announcing full mobilization of the body in order to repel Tahrir al-Sham's attacks, while Hurras al-Deen reportedly joined the clashes on Tahrir al-Sham's side. In Idlib province, the National Front for Liberation made advances in the eastern part of Saraqib and captured Tell Mansour checkpoint, as well as the village of Jaradah in southern Idlib.[21][22][23] On the same day, the National Front for Liberation issued a directive ordering fighters positioned against the Syrian government and allied forces on the front lines not to withdraw from their positions in order to attack Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.[24][better source needed] Jaysh al-Islam also reportedly announced they would take part in fighting against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham from Afrin due to preexisting hostilities between HTS and JAI from East Ghouta.[13][better source needed]

On 3 January, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), National Front for Liberation captured al-Zawiyah and al-Ghadqa town in Maarrat al-Nu'man District, after an attack on the sites of Tahrir al-Sham there, while the clashes continue between both parties in the area, the clashes continue in Babila area at the highway of Saraqib Maarrat al-Nu’man and other places in the southern countryside of Idlib.[17] On the same day, according to pro-government sources, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham captured four towns in the Hama Governorate.[25]

On 4 January, SOHR reported that clashes continued between Nour al-Din al-Zenki of National Liberation Front and Tahrir al-Sham, in the areas of Kafrentin, Senkhar, and the vicinity and outskirts of Darat Izza, that clashes renewed between National Liberation Front against Tahrir al-Sha in the areas of Qah and Salwah in the northern countryside of Idlib, and that Tahrir al-Sham took control over Jamiat al-Arman, in the opposition-held part of the western Aleppo countryside and captured the towns of Sinkhar, al-Hota and the 111th Regiment base from the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement. Tahrir al-Sham also reportedly entered the town of A’wejel after reaching an agreement with the local council there.[10]

On the same day, the Russian Air Force reportedly launched airstrikes on Darat Izza[5][26] and Base 111 which were recently captured by Tahrir al-Sham from the Nour al-Din al-Zenki movement.[4]

On 5 January, SOHR reported that Tahrir al-Sham shelled Deir Ballut in Afrin countryside controlled by the Olive Branch forces of the Syrian National Army, while clashes continued between Tahrir al-Sham and National Front for Liberation near the border town of Atme. At dawn on Saturday, a large military convoy including tens of vehicles and members was brought by Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham to areas in the southern countryside of Idlib, and negotiations took place with between Tahrir al-Sham and Nour al-Din al-Zenki movement about the latter withdrawing towards Afrin area.[3]

On 6 January, Tahrir al-Sham entered the city of Atarib with military columns, after an agreement was reached after midnight of yesterday with factions of Thowwar al-Sham and Bayareq al-Islam. The agreement came after hours of violent clashes after an attack by Tahrir al-Sham to take control of the town. Meanwhile, according to SOHR, more than 400 fighters of Nour al-Din al-Zenki arrived in the areas controlled by the TFSA in the northeastern and northwestern parts of Aleppo, after they surrendered in the clashes against Tahrir al-Sham, with the expectation that the number of arrivals would increase to 500 fighters.[27]

On 7 January, SOHR reported that the countryside of Idlib continued witnessing a mobilization by the rival factions in their areas of control, with the National Liberation Front factions continuing to reinforce their points and fortify them and bringing more fighters to the checkpoints, such as in the outskirts of Maarrat al-Nu'man, Ariha, and others. Tahrir Al-Sham brought reinforcements to Ariha area in the southern sector of Idlib countryside, as well as the areas of Bsonqul, Basames and Qarsaya; according to SOHR these reinforcements come as a part of preparations by Tahrir Al-Sham to expand its control again within Idlib province.[28][29] On the same day, the Rouse the Believers Operations Room, which includes Ansar al-Islam, Jabhat Ansar al-Din remnants, the Guardians of Religion Organization, and Ansar al-Tawhid, published a statement condemning the infighting and called for all issues and differences between HTS and the NLF to be resolved in a Sharia court.[30][better source needed] The NFL's 2nd Army also published a document renouncing the infighting.[31][32]

Expansion into Al-Ghab Plain[edit]

Map of the changing frontlines during the conflict

On 8 January, clashes continued between Tahrir al-Sham and factions belonging to the National Front for Liberation in several sectors of Hama and Idlib countryside. National Front for Liberation launched a counterattack on positions of Tahrir al-Sham in Sfuhen town, which caused the advancement of the National Front for Liberation factions and besieging members of Tahrir al-Sham in several pockets in the town and injuring others, in addition to damaging several vehicles of Tahrir al-Sham, which is bringing more military reinforcements to the area. The clashes described as the most violent took place between both parties, in Tremla area and villages of Jabal Shashabo and Sahl al-Ghab, and the vicinity of Hbit and Abdin, which caused casualties in the ranks of both parties. While Tahrir al-Sham was able to achieve an important advancement in Sahl al-Ghab at the western country of Hama, and control one of the most important strongholds of Ahrar al-Sham faction, al-Ankawi village, according to SOHR it contains a headquarters large enough to accommodate tanks. Tahrir al-Sham also managed to advance and control each of Naqir, Abdin, Arinbeh, Stuh al-Dier, Tremla, and parts of Sfuhen, while heavy and medium machinegun targeting took place this morning on the outskirts of Maarat al-Nu’man and Ariha.[33] On the same day, the NFL's Jaysh al-Nasr announced their neutrally in the conflict.[34][better source needed]

NFL surrender[edit]

On 9 January 2019, a truce was agreed to, with the NFL surrendering their last positions in southwestern Idlib to Tahrir al-Sham, with Jaysh al-Izza being the only other group allowed to operate in that area.[18][35][36]

During the 9 day conflict, HTS captured around 90 areas, which gave them about 80% control over rebel territories in greater Idlib, or about 7200 km² out of about 8937 km², prior to the NFL's surrender.[14] On 10 January, Tahrir al-Sham took control of the remaining territories that were formerly held by the NFL, with the exception of several towns in the Hama countryside.[7][18][36]


On 30 April 2019, the Syrian Army launched a large-scale offensive on the Idlib pocket, beginning with an aerial bombing campaign,[37][38] and then launching a ground offensive on 6 May.[39][40][41][42] The offensive came after numerous HTS attacks, culminating with an attack by the HTS on 27 April that left 22 pro-government fighters dead.[43]

Groups rejecting rebel infighting[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Hundreds of Turkey-backed rebels leave Manbij frontlines to fight Al Qaeda in Aleppo". The National (Abu Dhabi). 2 January 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Syrian National Army sends reinforcements to confront HTS in Western Aleppo, according to military commander of National Army". SMART News Agency. 2 January 2019. Archived from the original on 27 October 2019. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  3. ^ a b "The fight between Tahrir al-Sham and the National Front extends to the northern countryside of Idlib in the 5th day of the bloody clashes that killed about 130 fighters and civilians". SOHR. 5 January 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Russian air strike in Idlib - Turkey remains silent". ANF News. 5 January 2019.
  5. ^ a b Vohra, Anchal (January 9, 2019). "HTS offensive could draw in Syria and Turkey". Al Jazeera. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  6. ^ a b "The rescue government extends its full administrative control to areas of moderate factions within " Putin – Erdogan " agreement areas in the 4 provinces". SOHR. 10 January 2019.
  7. ^ a b c "Jihadists take control of Idlib province after collapse of Turkish-backed rebels". Al-Masdar News. 10 January 2019.
  8. ^ Barić, Joško (4 January 2019). "Syrian War Daily – 4th of January 2019". Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  9. ^ "Twitter / Account Suspended". Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  10. ^ a b c "The National Liberation Front continues its offensive to recover the second largest towns west of Aleppo and clashes erupt in new areas near the border with Iskenderun". SOHR. 4 January 2019.
  11. ^ QalQal (3 January 2019). "مصادرة مصفح من الصقور على محور جرادة -بابيلا بعد محاولتهم التقدم HTS captured this APC from Suqour". Twitter. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  12. ^ "Ceasefire sees jihadists cement grip over Idlib | James Snell".
  13. ^ a b Aboufadel, Leith (2 January 2019). "Old rivalries never die: Jaysh Al-Islam vows to fight HTS in northwest Syria". Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  14. ^ a b c "After 9 days of bloody clashes, Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham with the "jihadi" factions control about 80% of the area of what is left for the opposition factions within Syrian territory". SOHR. 9 January 2019.
  15. ^ "Clashes between 'radical' fighters and rebels 'leave 31 dead in western Aleppo'". Middle East Eye. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  16. ^ "After the violent clashes, the stronghold of revolution of the Syrian north is under the control of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham after an agreement sparked the resentment of the people's area • the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights". 6 January 2019.
  17. ^ a b "The bloody fight of the great factions enters its 4th day with clashes west of Aleppo, and cautious calm in Idlib fronts after the death and capture of tens". SOHR. 4 January 2019.
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  19. ^ Humund, Carla (2019). Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response (PDF). p. 15.
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  21. ^ "Syrian War Daily – 2nd of January 2019". Syrian War Daily. 2 January 2019.
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  27. ^ "Hundreds of fighters of Nour al-Dien al-Zenki movement and the factions of the National Front arrive in areas of control of the Turkish Forces in Afrin and the countryside of Aleppo after surrendering and leaving the area". SOHR. 6 January 2019.
  28. ^ "The warring factions in the Syrian north continue to strengthen their positions and fortify areas of their presence in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo after the death of tens". SOHR. 7 January 2019.
  29. ^ "After it imposed its control over large spaces in the west of Aleppo…Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham sends its reinforcements to the southern sector of Idlib province in a preparation for new fighting". SOHR. 7 January 2019.
  30. ^ "via Twitter". Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  31. ^[bare URL image file]
  32. ^ "فيلق الشام ينهي عمل الفوج 111 والجيش الثاني يفصل أحد قادته - شبكة بلدي الإعلامية". Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  33. ^ "The rivalry increases between Tahrir al-Sham and the National Liberation Front south of Idlib, Sahl al-Ghab, and Jabal Shashabo and demonstration in Maarrat al-Nu'man against mobilization of Tahrir al-Sham to break into it". SOHR. 8 January 2019.
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  35. ^ Aboufadel, Leith (9 January 2019). "Breaking: Turkish-backed rebels surrender last positions in southwest Idlib". Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  36. ^ a b Humund, Carla (2019). Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response (PDF). p. 15.
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  42. ^ Bulos, Nabih (6 May 2019). "Syrian government troops launch an offensive against rebels in the country's northwest". Los Angeles Times.
  43. ^ "US Urges Russia to End 'Escalation' in Syria's Idlib". VOA. Retrieved 8 May 2019.