Syrian rebel groups announce merger in Idlib countryside

Syrian rebel groups announce merger in Idlib countryside
A number of Islamist rebel groups, including a former al-Qaeda affiliate, announced a military merger in an Idlib town on Saturday, and called on other rebels to follow suit.
2 min read
18 December, 2016
Some within the Syrian opposition blamed rebel disunity for the fall of Aleppo [AFP]

A number of Islamist rebel groups in the Syrian town of Termanin, northern Idlib province, announced a new merger to unify rebel factions on Saturday.

In a brief statement seen by The New Arab, the town’s rebel groups said: “we the military factions in the city of Termanin announce our unity under a single military formation.”

“We call on the leaders of the Syrian jihad to unite… and abandon divisions and labels, and to follow a single leader,” said the statement.

The statement said the groups have chosen Abu Hamza Termanin to lead the new rebel formation, which observers believe will be called “The Syrian Islamic Commission”.

The statement was singed by former al-Qaeda affiliate, Fateh al-Sham Front, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and Faylaq al-Sham.

The move comes after Syrian regime forces and their allies took near complete control of Aleppo, in which rebels had established a stronghold in the city’s east, where thousands of fighters and civilians still remain under intense siege.

East Aleppo fell to regime forces and its allies after a brutal military campaign and aerial bombardment by regime and Russian warplanes, while some within the Syrian opposition also blamed the disunity of the city’s rebels.

Also on Saturday, a deal for the complete evacuation of rebel-held parts of eastern Aleppo was resumed, a Syrian rebel commander told news channel al-Arabiya.

The new deal comprised the evacuation of "humanitarian cases" from two Shia villages besieged by rebels in north-western Syria in return for the full evacuation of Aleppo, rebel official al-Farouk Abu Bakr said.

The deal, which will see the evacuation of some 4,000 people from the government-controlled villages of al-Fuaa and Kefraya, is expected to start on Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

It also includes the evacuation of rebel-held towns of Madaya and Zabadani near the border with Lebanon, where tens of thousands of people are trapped under sieged by pro-regime forces.

A previous agreement to evacuate Aleppo was breached "by pro-government militas" who detained "hundreds" of people trying to leave, Abu Bakr told al-Arabiya.

"It was agreed to resume evacuations from east Aleppo in parallel with the evacuation of [medical] cases from Kefraya and al-Fuaa and some cases from Zabadani and Madaya," a source, who is part of the evacuations negotiating team, told Reuters.