US Special Forces in Raqqah censor journalist who caught them dressed as YPG fighters

By Naveed Malekafzali (Twitter)

Still from Kurdistan24 footage from mid-2016, showing US Special Forces in Syria with YPG patches on their uniforms.

Still from Kurdistan24 footage from mid-2016, showing US Special Forces in Syria with YPG patches on their uniforms.

Raqqah - Dutch freelance reporter Hans Jaap Melissen stated today that US Special Forces forced him to delete footage of them after they were found to be dressed as YPG fighters who participated in the Battle of Raqqah.

While US Special Forces soldiers dressed in YPG uniform would be a new development in the continuing Coalition intervention against ISIS in Syria, American soldiers adorned with YPG insignia has been going on since at least 2016. Instances were first spotted of this by Iraqi Kurdistan-affiliated Kurdistan24 in the middle of last year. Russian forces have also been spotted in the past flying YPG flags and insignia, such as in March of this year when they were stationed at border towns between SDF-held Afrin Canton and government-held territory in Aleppo province. 

While the YPG and their affiliates have censored and arrested journalists in the past, though infrequent, US special forces involved in training and assisting the YPG have not done so before. This incident with the aforementioned Dutch journalist would be the first such incident during their intervention in Syria. No other footage or images stemming from Melissen's reporting from Raqqa have been mentioned as being censored. This includes a photo of a large banner of controversial figure Abdullah Öcalan, draped in the city square of Raqqah by YPG forces. Öcalan is the leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a designated terrorist organization by the United States themselves, among other countries like Turkey and Syria, as well as supranational organizations like the European Union and NATO.

Israeli airstrikes hit government positions in rural Quneitra

By Naveed Malekafzali (Twitter)

File photo of the village of Hadar, the area where the airstrikes hit nearby.

File photo of the village of Hadar, the area where the airstrikes hit nearby.

Quneitra - Following a stray mortar rocket hit in an open field in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, Israeli Air Force jets struck Syrian government positions in rural northern Quneitra, west of the village of Hadar.

One strike was reported on a position near the de facto Israeli-Syrian border. Another occurred near the frontline between the Syrian government and the Free Syrian Army, a positon also near the IDF Mount Hermon military encampment on the other side of the border.

No casualties or injuries have been reported on either side of the 1974 Ceasefire Line.

Israeli airstrikes in Syria have become more and more frequent in recent months, with the last one happening just three days ago, when IAF jets destroyed an anti-aircraft battery in one of the suburbs of Damascus.

SDF enters Marqadah

By Naveed Malekafzali (Twitter)

YPG/YPJ fighters from the Suwar and Marqadah fronts meet on October 14.

YPG/YPJ fighters from the Suwar and Marqadah fronts meet on October 14.

al-Hasakah - After days of fighting on the outskirts, SDF fighters have entered ISIS-held Marqadah.

The future capture of Marqadah is crucial to the Kurdish-led war effort in al-Hasakah, as the town is the last ISIS stronghold in the province, only leaving the securing of both sides of the Khabur River as the last major objective.

The SDF entered the area just before noon today, with the SDF bogged down in fighting around the Water Station and the local Police Department that ceased when the SDF secured the southern half of the town. It is unknown whether or not the fighting will become more intense when the SDF enters the northern half. Airstrikes by any air force have not been recorded in the area since 2016.

ISIS captured Marqadah in March of 2014 from the then-named Jabhat an-Nusrah, in a battle that killed 120 in total over the course of just over a week.

SDF captures Raqqah

By Naveed Malekafzali (Twitter)

Raqqah - After an arduous four month battle, the Syrian Democratic Forces, spearheaded by the YPG, have captured the former de facto ISIS capital of Raqqah.

SDF fighters wave flags of their respective groups as they march through the final district of Raqqah taken from ISIS.

SDF fighters wave flags of their respective groups as they march through the final district of Raqqah taken from ISIS.

It is a massive victory for the Kurdish-led forces, having been nearly expelled from Aleppo and Raqqah provinces by ISIS forces at the Battle of Kobani in late 2014 and early 2014. A massive comeback, resulting from a massive Coalition air campaign, forced ISIS from the Turkish border in Raqqah province in the summer of 2015 and eventually resulted in ISIS's capital of Raqqah City itself being being besieged by the SDF in June 2017.

In similar fashion to the Battle of Mosul, the SDF was able to capture outer Raqqah City far more easily than the inner Old City, where they became bogged down in nearly house-to-house fighting against ISIS fighters in the last month. By the beginning of October, it was expected that Raqqah would be taken in the next few weeks, a prediction that had made been made at multiple points during the battle's events.

It was also around this time that ISIS stopped issuing media from the media save for radio reports. The last video release from Raqqah was issued on September 29, in a video entitled "And the Best of Responders", and the final photos were released a day later.

A photo from the final photo set released by ISIS from the city of Raqqah on September 30, showing fighters trudging through immense rubble in order to continue fighting advancing SDF fighters.

A photo from the final photo set released by ISIS from the city of Raqqah on September 30, showing fighters trudging through immense rubble in order to continue fighting advancing SDF fighters.

The breakthrough that allowed the SDF to finally capture the city was a deal reached with the remaining ISIS fighters surrounded within. All Syrian ISIS fighters would be allowed to leave the city with their families, but foreign fighters could not leave.

With such a large amount of fighters leaving, in addition to the near-insurmountable issues presented by foreign fighters attempting to coordinate with few common languages, the SDF was able to halve ISIS territory in Raqqah in a single day, with the final district of the city falling the day afterwards.

ISIS's new administrative center, after having been moved to Mayadin which was then captured by Syrian government forces, is now in the town of al-Qa'im in Iraq's Anbar province. 

HTS retakes Sukari and Abu Kahf from ISIS in northeastern Hama

By Naveed Malekafzali (Twitter)

HTS fire a technical at encamped ISIS fighters in the Hama countryside.

HTS fire a technical at encamped ISIS fighters in the Hama countryside.

Hama - Hay'at Tahrir ash-Sham has retaken the villages of Sukari and Abu Kahf, as well as the hill overlooking the latter area, from ISIS forces in the northeastern Hama countryside.

HTS have been embroiled in fighting with ISIS since the beginning of the week, the first time the two forces have fought in many months. While HTS originally did not share any frontline, ISIS managed to infiltrate rebel-held territory in Hama after crossing government-held territory and abandoning their original territory that had been surrounded by the Syrian Army.

No official casualty count has been reported by either ISIS or HTS, but one ISIS armored vehicle was destroyed by the group itself to avoid recapture by advancing rebel forces.

An ISIS armored vehicle burns after having been detonated by retreating ISIS fighters.

An ISIS armored vehicle burns after having been detonated by retreating ISIS fighters.

ISIS besieges Sukhnah

By Naveed Malekafzali (Twitter)

Homs - After the announcement of the "Abu Muhammad al-Adnani Offensive" earlier this week, ISIS is close to reaching one of their major goals of the military operation: re-taking the town of Sukhnah.

The main push for the town began yesterday after fighting finally reached the area a few days ago. After establishing fire control over the M20 Road connecting the town with the nearby village of Arak, ISIS was able to surround Sukhnah from the west, east, and south. After attacking with a volley of armed pick-up trucks, ISIS was able to consolidate their foothold at the western gate of the town by capturing Jubayl Tuntur, which overlooks the area. Continued ISIS shelling was able to break down Syrian Army defenses in the north, allowing the group to fully besiege the town.

The Syrian military was able to re-capture the town of Sukhnah from ISIS in August of this year after a long push to take central Syria that lasted over six months. The town had been held by ISIS since May of 2015, when fighters from the group routed Syrian troops in the town, killing 70 of them. The rout that was caught on camera and released through ISIS media.

ISIS fighters march into Sukhnah after routing the Syrian military during the initial battle to capture the town in May 2015.

ISIS fighters march into Sukhnah after routing the Syrian military during the initial battle to capture the town in May 2015.

Syrian Army captures several border checkpoints from FSA along Jordan border

By Naveed Malekafzali (Twitter)

Homs - The Syrian Army has re-taken nine border garrisons alongside the Syrian-Jordanian border from Free Syrian Army fighters in the Rif Dimashq countryside and into the Homs countryside, entering the province from the southwest for the first time. Both frontline axes of the Syrian government are now around 50 kilometers from the US military training outpost at the at-Tanf border crossing with Iraq.

Map of today's advance into the countryside of Homs province from the southwest.

Map of today's advance into the countryside of Homs province from the southwest.

The operations against the FSA-controlled outposts began near the village of Khabrat Radifah, near the border between the two provinces. The taking of the garrisons comes on the heel of increasingly prevalent rumors of rebel forces withdrawing from posts along the Jordanian border and evacuating refugee camps in advance of predicted regime attacks. No casualties on either rebel or government sides have been reported.

Footage from first batch of Syrian military operations to take rebel border outposts along the Jordan border two days ago.

ISIS captures Qaryatayn Dam

By Naveed Malekafzali (Twitter)

Homs - As government forces prepare to retake Qaryatayn after the surprise sleeper cell attack earlier this week, ISIS managed to capture several villages surrounding the town, including the Qaryatayn Dam about ten kilometers south.

Official ISIS statement announcing the capturing of villages and the dam in the surrounding area of Qaryatayn, issued at 4:30 PM Syria time.

Official ISIS statement announcing the capturing of villages and the dam in the surrounding area of Qaryatayn, issued at 4:30 PM Syria time.

While the Qaryatayn dam does not have a stake in any of Syria's major waterways or reservoirs, the capturing of the surrounding area is a blow to Syrian government efforts this week, who are preparing to storm the town and recapture it.

The government is already suffering from manpower shortages, a common problem due to mass defections early on in the civil war in addition to the multi-front fighting against both the rebels and later on, ISIS itself. The problem has been exacerbated as of late due to the Syrian Army being bogged down in the fighting against the latter group in the Syrian desert of Hama and Homs province, as well as the urban fighting in Deir ez-Zor.

Russia claims to critically wound HTS leader and kill 12 commanders in airstrike

By Naveed Malekafzali (Twitter)

Idlib - The Russian Ministry of Defense issued a statement this morning claiming that the Russian Air Force deployed an airstrike on a meeting of Hay'at Tahrir ash-Sham (HTS) commanders at an undisclosed location in Idlib province. In the press release, Russia stated that 12 commanders in HTS had been killed in the strike, along with 50 other fighters who were guarding the meeting, and that the leader of HTS, Abu Muhammad al-Julani, had been critically wounded, losing his hand and suffering multiple shrapnel wounds.

Official English statement regarding the airstrike on HTS commanders by the Russian Ministry of Defense on Facebook.

Official English statement regarding the airstrike on HTS commanders by the Russian Ministry of Defense on Facebook.

Abu Muhammad al-Julani was originally the leader of al-Qa'idah's official branch in Syria known as Jabhat an-Nusrah, and later the leader of the same group after they split from al-Qa'idah, known afterwards as Jabhat Fateh ash-Sham. After they rebranded again as Hay'at Tahrir ash-Sham, Abu Muhammad al-Julani became the military commander of the rebel group, with the former leader of Ahrar ash-Sham, Abu Jabir, becoming the main head of the organization. Abu Muhammad al-Julani became the main head of the fighting group on October 1, replacing Abu Jabir who resigned and became the leader of the group's Shura Council.

The official video released by the Russian Ministry of Defense that was said to be of the Idlib airstrike.

The claim made by the Ministry of Defense has not been without criticism. The only evidence provided by Russia is a video from the supposed plane that committed the strike. The video provided was later found by analysts to be from a previous Russian airstrike on the interim ISIS base of operations, Mayadin, located in Deir ez-Zor province and over 400 kilometers from the location of the alleged airstrike in Idlib.

No photos, video, or otherwise of the aftermath of the airstrike by either locals in Idlib province or by outlets aligned with the Syrian government have been provided as of yet.

Government forces prepare to retake Qaryatayn from ISIS

By Naveed Malekafzali (Twitter)

Homs - Shortly following the surprise capture of the town of Qaryatayn in Homs province by ISIS sleeper cells, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its associated forces are preparing to retake the area. The town with a large Christian minority was initially attacked on September 29th, and was announced to have been officially captured by ISIS on October 1.

Official ISIS news bulletin, issued on October 1, announcing full control of the town of Qaryatayn, Homs.

Official ISIS news bulletin, issued on October 1, announcing full control of the town of Qaryatayn, Homs.

While the Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) conducts air raids on the town and fighting is taking place at the southern gate, the main push to re-take the area is being prepared from elsewhere in the province. Regular soldiers are surrounding the town as of the time of this writing in preparation to storm in the coming hours/days. However, manpower shortages, a chronic issue with the Syrian government during the civil war, have forced the SAA to resort to utilizing local police forces in Homs province as supplementary soldiers.

Provincial police officers from Homs, redressed in military uniform, prepare to re-take the town of Qaryatayn.

Provincial police officers from Homs, redressed in military uniform, prepare to re-take the town of Qaryatayn.

While not officially confirmed by any outlet directly associated with the Syrian government, reports say that those responsible were 120 ISIS fighters who had "settled their status" with the government. They launched their sleeper operation against the Hezbollah fighters who were holding them at a reconciliation center in the town. Shortly afterwards, they donned SAA uniforms and set up fake checkpoints, commonplace during their peak operations phase in Iraq. Like in Iraq, these checkpoints have been used to lure in arriving pro-government fighters which are they then killed after they reach the outpost. 

The capture of Qaryatayn is part of ISIS's recently initiated "Abu Muhammad al-Adnani Offensive", which aims to recapture mass swathes of the Syrian desert in Homs and Hama, and to break the siege on the small ISIS pocket in the province latter. The offensive has stalled after fighting reached the recently recaptured town of Sukhnah, but the fighting in the Syrian desert has yet to cease. The capture is notable for being at least 70 kilometers from the nearest frontline of fighting between the two groups.

Qaryatayn was originally captured from the Syrian government in August 2015, and held for eight months before being re-taken, but not after ISIS had partially demolished an ancient monastery and caused much of the town's Christian population to flee.

An ISIS fighter prays during the first battle to take Qaryatayn in August 2015. Taken from the Wilayat Dimashq release, "The Battle of Abu Hasan al-Khatha'mi - The Liberation of the City of Qaryatayn."

An ISIS fighter prays during the first battle to take Qaryatayn in August 2015. Taken from the Wilayat Dimashq release, "The Battle of Abu Hasan al-Khatha'mi - The Liberation of the City of Qaryatayn."

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi releases new speech

By Naveed Malekafzali (Twitter)

After almost a full year of silence, the leader and self-proclaimed "Caliph and Leader of the Faithful" Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has released a new audio message through the central media apparatus of the ISIS group, al-Furqan Media Center. The speech is entitled, "Sufficient is your Lord as a Guide and Helper", the title coming from the Qur'anic verse 25:31.

The promotional image released by al-Furqan Media Center for the release of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's new speech.

The promotional image released by al-Furqan Media Center for the release of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's new speech.

The release of this speech comes a few months after Iran and Russia had claimed to have killed the ISIS leader in airstrike on the former administrative capital of the armed group, Raqqah. Other less corroborated death reports have circulated, such as Iraqi news outlets claiming he died in the Iraqi Army assault on Tal Afar in early July. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's last audio statement had been released in November of 2016, shortly after the beginning of the Battle of Mosul and several months before the besieging of Raqqah by the SDF.

In the speech, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi makes reference to recent North Korean threats against Japan and the US, dating the speech to at least August of this year. This conflicts with the Russian/Irainian reports of his death which came out in June this year. al-Baghdadi's statements since the announcement of the ISIS caliphate have usually come on the heel of reports of his death, and feature him mentioning recent geopolitical events that come after the date of his reported death in question.

The ISIS leader also devoted time to talking about ISIS's vast territorial losses this past year, a slow but sure trend of acknowledgement of battle losses in ISIS media that began in late 2015. While al-Baghdadi acknowledged these losses in "Mosul, Raqqah, Sirt, Ramadi, and Hama", he claimed that these lost battles did not mean that ISIS was no longer upon truth, nor did it mean that they would inevitably lose the entire war. He remarked that he was "certain that it [...] will lead to the downfall of the tyrants."

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also talked extensively on the theological topic of monotheism, seemingly in reference to a recent debacle within ISIS's Shari'ah committee regarding their expansive fatwa on takfir, which moved the goalpost on the definition of takfir already much farther than their already infamously wide definition.

This fatwa, which was controversially recently rescinded, claimed that Muslims who did not publicly condemn and proclaim that ISIS's theological and military enemies as disbelievers, those Muslims themselves were also disbelievers.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been not officially confirmed to have been seen in public since in July 2014, but speculation has been raised about him appearing in other official ISIS photo releases as late as February 2016, where he was allegedly spotting giving out prizes for a Qur'an memorization competition in Fallujah.

 

 

Kurdish National Council boycotts local elections in Rojava

By Naveed Malekafzali (Twitter)

Qamishli - The Kurdish National Council (KNC) a political organization based in Rojava heavily associated with the government of Iraqi Kurdistan, has announced it will boycott the September 22 local elections in the de facto Kurdish autonomous region in Syria.

In a press release, the KNC condemned the local elections as "one-sided" in an attempt to solidify the PYD's current control of the government, and to distract from the Kurdish independence referendum in Iraq.

The head of the KNC's Local Councils, Mohsen Tahar, announces the end of a hunger strike protesting the PYD in September 2016.

The head of the KNC's Local Councils, Mohsen Tahar, announces the end of a hunger strike protesting the PYD in September 2016.

The KNC and the ruling PYD, whose military wing is the YPG and is the main contingent of the SDF military force, have a long history of rivalry since their founding in 2011, having had it explode into conflict and governmental action in 2016. The KNC's open and extensive links to the Iraqi Kurdish government, a rival of the autonomous government in Syria, have earned them the ire of many Syrian Kurds, including the ruling PYD.

On top of these connections to Barzani, the President of Iraqi Kurdistan, the group has been accused of also having extensive links to Turkey, which has hit PYD-held areas of Syria with artillery fire and airstrike campaigns. While the KNC had asked Turkey in 2016 to assist them in their conflict with the PYD government, they have since turned against them, accusing them of threatening Rojava's sovereignty.

Among other actions, the most common action taken by the PYD against the KNC is arresting members of the organization and their leaders, including the leader of the party itself, Ibrahim Biro. The Rojava government has also closed down KNC branches and burned them across the region under the guise of closing down unregistered offices.

The KNC currently has two seats on the Syrian Democratic Council, the main legislative body of Rojava, and has not said whether or not it will boycott the 2018 parliamentary elections.

Rebels launch new offensive in northern Hama countryside against Syrian government

By Naveed Malekafzali (Twitter)

Hama - After nearly half a year of silence alongside the frontlines of the rebels and the Syrian government in northern Syria, Hayat Tahrir ash-Sham (HTS) and the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) have launched an offensive in the northern Hama countryside.

The offensive began at 9 AM this morning with HTS/TIP fighters attacking positions just northwest of the village of Ma'an, near Ti'an. Government forces were able to quickly repel said attack within the hour. In response to these attacks, Russian and Syrian Air Force planes began airstrikes on rebel-held villages near the frontlines, with airstrikes hitting the villages of Murak and al-Lataminah in Hama. Multiple airstrikes and cluster bombs also hit multiple towns in Idlib, hospitals being specifically targeted in al-Tamani'ah, Kafr Nabl, and Khan Shaykhun, the site of this year's chemical attack that sparked US President Trump's bombing of the Syrian government's Shayrat Airbase. Four people have thus far been confirmed killed in the bombing, with two injured., though the numbers are expected to rise.

After the round of airstrikes, HTS renewed their offensive on Ma'an with an SVBIED strike on their positions at the northern entrance of the village, killing and wounding many government fighters. While pro-government outlets reported that the attack had been repelled within the hour, pro-rebel activists reported that Ma'an itself had captured by the rebels. No pictures or video has been released from Ma'an as of yet so these reports could not be verified.

Following this attack, rebels were able to capture the village of Wadi Ma'arran, west of Ma'an, where they burned pictures of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well as the flag of the ruling government as they overran government forces' positions.

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Syrian Army crosses Euphrates River

By Naveed Malekafzali (Twitter)

Deir ez-Zor - The Syrian Army, following the breaking of the siege of the provincial capital city, has crossed the Euphrates River and taken territory on the other banks from ISIS forces. At the time of this report, it has been confirmed with news footage via Russia's state media network Russia 24 that the Syrian Army has crossed one branch of the Euphrates onto Sakr Island. The military is confirmed to have taken the eastern half of the island, and heavy clashes to take the western half of the island are ongoing.

Sakr Island, where the SAA first entered after crossing the Euphrates, is an island contained within the Euphrates River and part of Deir ez-Zor City proper, was considered at one point one of the army's strongest defense points. The island was swiftly taken by ISIS fighters in May 2015 at a speed that surprised many. The organization commemorated the taking of the island with a video entitled "Sakr Island, Taken by Allah's Bounty".

An ISIS fighter speaks in the video, "Sakr Island, Taken by Allah's Bounty", released by Wilayat Khayr's media office on May 15, 2015 following the group's taking of the island.

An ISIS fighter speaks in the video, "Sakr Island, Taken by Allah's Bounty", released by Wilayat Khayr's media office on May 15, 2015 following the group's taking of the island.

Unconfirmed reports, with no pictures having been released, have also said that government forces have also crossed the main branch of the Euphrates into northern Deir ez-Zor province and captured at least two villages, Madhlum and Marat having been named. If the unconfirmed reports are verified, this would mean that the SAA has crossed the US/SDF-set de-confliction line set as the Euphrates River. The SDF has said they are willing to fight government forces if necessary if they cross the Euphrates.

Government forces crossing the Euphrates has long been the pivotal goal of the Syrian government in the civil war, having had their territorial control pushed south of the river very early on in the conflict. The Syrian Army had reached the Euphrates River in Aleppo province in March of this year, but were prevented from crossing to capture further territory on the eastern bank due to SDF presence.

Explosion rocks government-held T4 Airbase in Homs

By Naveed Malekafzali (Twitter)

Homs - An explosion in an ammunition depot rocked the government-held Tiyas Airbase, otherwise known as T4, in Tiyas, Homs, the largest airport in Syria. The ammunition depot explosion was reported to have occurred just after midnight at the airbase.The T4 airbase is located just over ninety kilometers west of the capital city of the province, far in the desert countryside.

No government troop casualties have been reported as of yet, but information is still coming in as of the writing of the report. Initial reports pinned the explosion as being the handiwork of a newly created "Mu'tah Islamic Movement", but it was later found that the reports were false, including the entire group's existence being a fabrication. No rebel group has officially taken responsibility for the explosion at this time. The explosion has been blamed by some on the inside temperature of the depot itself, though this has yet to be verified.

Undated satellite image of the T4 Airbase in the countryside of Homs.

Undated satellite image of the T4 Airbase in the countryside of Homs.

The T4 Airbase has never come under the control of any opposition group, but came extremely close to being overrun by ISIS forces during the 4th Palmyra Offensive of December 2016, when the organization's fighters came within a kilometer's distance of besieging the airport itself after almost entirely the surrounding the base, save for the western flank.

Coalition threatens to bomb Government convoy evacuating ISIS fighters to Abu Kamal

By Naveed Malekafzali (Twitter)

Qalamun Mountains - Coalition airstrikes from US bombers have bombed a road and destroyed a bridge at an undisclosed location along the route that a Lebanese/Syrian government convoy carrying evacuated ISIS fighters is taking to Abu Kamal, a small town in Dayr az-Zawr Province on the border of Syria and Iraq. The US had originally threatened to bomb the convoy itself before cratering the road the buses were taking, a threat that still remains.

ISIS fighters evacuated from the Qalamun mountains begin their journey to Abu Kamal on a government convoy, driven by a civilian driver.

ISIS fighters evacuated from the Qalamun mountains begin their journey to Abu Kamal on a government convoy, driven by a civilian driver.

ISIS and HTS had been embroiled in a Hezbollah/Lebanese Army offensive alongside the Lebanese border mountain range for the past two months. HTS, in the latest of many deals with the Syrian government to avoid fighting to the last man, had their fighters transferred to Idlib in early August. ISIS, in a move that surprised analysts, also accepted a deal brokered by both the Lebanese and Syrian governments to be transferred out of their border pocket to ISIS territory in eastern Syria. This is the first time ISIS has ever accepted a deal from any government they have been battling, having infamously rejected even negotiating with other Salafist Islamist groups in Syria or Libya.

Despite the US also currently bombing HTS, albeit in a far smaller and infrequent capacity, no such threat to bomb convoys carrying their fighters in the past has ever been made by the US government or any other Coalition country.

There are currently estimated to be 600 ISIS fighters, alongside their families, on the convoy in transit. Because of the presence of women and children on the buses, there have been concerns raised that bombing the convoy with airstrikes could constitute a war crime.

HTS takes on local councils in greater Idlib

As part of its most recent hegemony aspirations in greater Idlib, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has started a political power conflict against some of the most prominent local councils in the region.

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