Ahrar al-Sham leader killed in Syria

Ahrar al-Sham leader killed in Syria
Abu Abdelrahman Salqeen, leader of Syrian rebel group Ahrar al-Sham was killed Tuesday in a suicide bombing that targeted the group for the second time in less than a year.
4 min read
15 July, 2015
[FILE] Ahrar al-Sham forces attend training [Getty]
A double suicide bombing in northern Syria on Tuesday targeted the headquarters of an Islamist rebel group, killing its leader and several other high ranking members.

The attack was the second time in less than a year that a bombing takes out the leadership of Ahrar al-Sham ("Free men of the Levant"), one of the most powerful Islamic groups fighting both President Bashar Assad's forces and its rival, the Islamic State group, which holds wide swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq.

Tuesday's attack struck the headquarters of Ahrar al-Sham northwest of the town of Idlib, killing the group's leader, Abu Abdelrahman Salqeen. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said six other Ahrar al-Sham members also died. The Local Coordination Committees and other activists also reported the attack.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing.

The attack came a few days after a senior member of Ahrar al-Sham published an op-ed piece in the Washington Post in which he denied espousing al-Qaeda's ideology and portrayed his group as the moderate Islamist alternative in Syria, claiming it was a key to defeating the IS.

In September, Ahrar al-Sham's leader Hassan Abboud was killed along with several other leading members of the group in a similar bombing also in Idlib province.

Ahrar al-Sham is the largest group in the Jaysh al-Fateh (“Army of Conquest”), the coalition of Islamist and moderate rebel groups that took control of the regime-held stronghold of Idlib in March this year.

According to a report in al-Monitor, the various groups in Jaysh al-Fateh are having trouble agreeing on a unified approach to governing the territory they have captured.

The other large group in the coalition, the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, reportedly attacked Sharia court buildings and police stations affiliated with Ahrar al-Sham-dominated Sharia authority for managing the liberated areas in Idlib in Kafr Nabl on 8 July.

Syrian forces backed by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters have entered a rebel-held mountain resort near the border with Lebanon.
This follows protests in the Idlib countryside against the Nusra Front, which Nusra fighters suppressed, reportedly with the use of lethal force, and a bomb at a mosque last Friday in which killed at least 10 members of the group, according to Reuters.

UN envoy meets southern rebels

UN Special Envoy for the Syria Crisis Staffan de Mistura met with leaders of the Southern Front alliance in southern Syria on Tuesday for the first time, according to Reuters.

The Southern Front alliance controls a significant amount of territory between the capital Damascus and the southern border, and has made a number of significant gains against regime forces over the last few months.

De Mistura began an extensive round of meetings with parties directly or indirectly involved in the conflict in May with an eye to ending the brutal four-year civil war.

According to his office, he plans to finalise plans by the end of July to reach a political solution to the conflict.

Regime offensive tightens grip on Zabadani

State media says Syrian forces backed by Lebanese Hizbollah fighters have entered a rebel-held mountain resort near the border with Lebanon, a day after launching a major offensive to capture the town.

State-run Syrian TV said troops entered the town of Zabadani from the western Jamaiyat district Sunday.

Hezbollah's al-Manar TV ran exclusive footage purportedly showing Hezbollah fighters in the town. It showed scenes of heavy fighting including explosions and mushrooms of white smoke.

According to other sources the regime’s latest attempt to secure Zabadani started 12 days ago.

Meshaal, killed in an airstrike in Hasakeh, composed several Jihadi hymns for the IS celebrating martyrdom and holy war.
Regime warplanes and helicopters launched at least 60 air raids yesterday on the rebel-held Syrian town of Zabadani, to the west of Damascus and a short distance from the Lebanese border, according to a monitoring group.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there had been at least 29 raids by warplanes on Zabadani and at least 34 barrel bombs dropped by helicopters so far today.

The raids come as forces from the regime's army and Hezbollah are engaged in their 11th day of heavy fighting with rebel forces in the area for control of the strategic town.

A spokesperson for the Zabadani Revolution Coordination Committee told al-Araby al-Jadeed on Monday that forces from the regime's army and Hezbollah had made several attempts to advance into the town from the south, but all of these attempts had been repelled.

Zabadani's capture would tighten Hezbollah's grip on Syrian territories bordering Lebanon and strengthen the Syrian government's control over of the Beirut-Damascus highway. The town has been held by rebels since shortly after Syria's crisis began in March 2011.

US airstrikes target the IS

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the death of two senior Islamic State group (IS) leaders in a suspected US airstrike on Monday.

Abu Osama al-Iraqi and Amer al-Rafdan were killed in what is believed to have been US airstrikes in Hasakeh.

A Saudi national, Maher Meshaal, known as Abu Hajar al-Hadrami, was also killed in airstrikes in Hasakeh, according to IS supporters on twitter, CBS reported.

Meshaal composed several Jihadi hymns for the IS celebrating martyrdom and holy war.

The airstrikes come a week after President Barrack Obama announced the US would intensify its campaign of airstrikes against the IS in northern Syria.