BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:30 P.M.) – Full-scale war has broken out between a number of major Idlib-based militant factions. Opposition media is indicating that the forces involved are seizing entire townships from each other throughout Idlib and Hama, even going so far as to use heavy weapons (i.e. tanks) to do so.
According to preliminary reports, the main belligerents appear to be the Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) jihadist group, the Ahrar al-Sham Islamist coalition and the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The latter two groups have united against the former.
Earlier today, HTS attacked an Ahrar al-Sham base in the Armanaz area of northern Idlib with a vehicle borne improvised explosive device (VBIED). The blast from the car bomb is said to have resulted in the death of three Ahrar al-Sham fighters and two civilians; furthermore, another 15 people were injured of which at least five were Ahrar al-Sham militants.
Bomb attacks aside, the warring factions have also engaged in seizing towns and villages from one another.
Reports say that Ahrar al-Sham took over the town of Qalat al-Madiq in the al-Ghab Plain region after forcing all HTS fighters to withdraw or face certain death. Moreover, Ahrar al-Sham also kicked HTS out of several towns and villages in the Shahshabo Mountain area of northern Hama.
Ahrar Al-Sham is currently storming HTS bases at the town of Harem in northern Idlib. The two groups are also exchanging fire in the town of Salqin where both have bases. The engagement has thus far left 16 people dead, most of which are Ahrar al-Sham fighters.
HTS has for its part also delivered some heavy blows to Ahrar al-Sham.
So far today, the jihadist group has killed the security chief of the Al-Abbas Brigade (part of Ahrar al-Sham) along with 3 other troops in the town of Al-Magharan.
Opposition media is now reporting that Ahrar al-Sham will allow Turkey-led Euphrates Shield forces to enter Idlib from the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing to aid them in fighting HTS although this also comes amid seemingly contradictory reports that, in response to all this violence, Turkey has sealed off its borders with Idlib.
Updates to follow.