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.