Toil and trouble in Idlib: Turkey’s gangs fight each other

As the Turkish state goes back and forth between Washington and Moscow to attack Manbij in order to push Idlib off the agenda, the gangs they guarantee in Idlib are at each others’ throats.

Intense clashes continue among ex-Al Qaeda jihadist groups the Turkish state took on the role of guarantor for in Astana and Sochi.

The groups under Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) led by Jabhat Al-Nusra have been attacking the groups under control of the Nuredin Zenki gangs in the northeast of Idlib last night. Reports say the HTS is moving against the Nuredin Zenki brigades in the Daret al-Izza region, where the Turkish state set up its first observation point, and they took over the Sheikh Berekat Mountain and the Taqad village. As violent clashes continue near Daret al-Izza, large numbers of casualties are reported from both sides but there is no concrete information.


The Turkish state had previously taken on the role of guarantor for the groups in Idlib in the Sochi and Astana meetings and promised to parse the groups.

Reminded of their promises to Russia, the Turkish state tries to keep Manbij on the agenda to obfuscate the situation in Idlib.

Meanwhile, Russian and Syrian fighter jets have been conducting air strikes against jihadist groups in the countryside of Jisr Al-Shuxur town to the southwest of Idlib and Morek to the south for the last 4 days.


The armed groups in Idlib are led by Al Nusra, the Syrian arm of Al Qaeda. Al Nusra, included in the terrorist organizations list by the United Nations, has changed its name several times to circumvent the list and took on the name Hayat Tahrir Al Sham (HTS) in the most recent iteration. They have also stated that they have no more ties to Al Qaeda and that they will fight only in Syria in July 2016.

There are dozens of groups in the HTS besides Al Nusra, like Jaysh al-Sunne, Jund al-Aqsa, Liwa al Haq, Jaysh al-Ahrar, Hurras al Din and Ansar al Din.

In the second block in Idlib, there is the Nureddin Zenki group that left the HTS and formed an alliance with Turkish-backed Ahrar al-Sham. A new block was formed when several big and small groups joined them in February 2018 called the “Syrian National Front”. Most of these groups had participated in the Euphrates Shield. A third group in the city is the “National Liberation Front” formed in May 2018 mostly by Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood) supporters, including groups like Faylaq Al-Sham, Jaysh al Idlib, Jaysh Nuxbe, Jaysh al Nasir and first and second coast divisions. Most of these groups have participated in both the Euphrates Shield and the invasion of Afrin. Turkey, as per the promises made in Astana, had committed to “moderate” these mostly Al Qaeda variant groups.

With the Syrian regime signalling the start of the Idlib operation, the Syrian National Front and the National Liberation Front groups announced that they joined forces under the name the National Liberation Front.

Hayat Tahrir al Sham has not accepted Turkey’s proposals that they disband themselves and join the National Liberation Front yet.