Syria HTS leader Jolani calls for unity among rebels, following opposition criticism

Syria HTS leader Jolani calls for unity among rebels, following opposition criticism
Syrian regime advances have been blamed by some sections of the opposition on failings by a leading rebel alliance, leading HTS chief Abu Mohammed al-Jolani to call for unity.
2 min read
17 January, 2018
Jolani made a rare audio statement on Tuesday
Leader of Syrian jihadi rebel alliance Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) released an audio recording Tuesday urging unity among opposition factions following recent regime advances.

Abu Mohammed al-Jolani called on rebel groups to "close ranks" as regime forces - backed by Russian air power - captured a series of towns and villages in Idlib, the last province under opposition control.

"For 100 days, we have been fighting one of the fiercest battles on all levels," Jolani said in the statement.

"We are ready to reconcile with everyone and turn a new page through a comprehensive reconciliation... Let us preoccupy ourselves with our enemies more than with ourselves and our disagreements."

HTS is an armed opposition alliance  based in Idlib and dominated by Fatah al-Sham, a group previously affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Jolani has not been heard of since October when Moscow claimed he was severly injured in a Russian air strike, which was swiftly denied by HTS.

Photos emerged of Jolani on the weekend, showing him speaking with commanders in a command room.

The HTS leader used Tuesday's speech to attack the Russian-sponsored Astana deal, which saw the establishment of so-called de-escalation zones in Syria.

Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed to monitor local ceasefires covered by the agreement, which included Idlib, despite coming under ferocious air raids in the past months.

A regime offensive in northern and central Syria intensified on Christmas Day with regime forces pushing into opposition towns and villages in Hama and moving on to Idlib.

Rebel forces have resorted to hit-and-run guerilla tactics to kill and capture regime forces, but have been unable to halt the offensive.

Opposition activists have blamed HTS for the rebels collapse, which has led to 200,000 Syrians to flee their homes as the regime advance.

Some have said HTS fighters have fled their posts and even accused the jihadi alliance of collaborating with the regime. Jolani has in turn blamed other rebel groups for the routs.

HTS launched an offensive on Ahrar al-Sham rebel alliance in Idlib last year, capturing the territory. The group are not covered by the de-escalation zone agreement.