First Published: 2018-02-19

Two hardline Syria rebels announce merger
Ahrar al-Sham, Nureddine al-Zinki merge in bid to pre-empt broader clash with jihadists in Syria's fractured northwest.
Middle East Online

Merger under the Syrian Liberation Front

IDLIB - Two hardline Syrian rebel factions announced they were merging on Sunday, in an apparent attempt to pre-empt a broader clash with jihadists in the country's fractured northwest.

"We, Ahrar al-Sham and Nureddine al-Zinki, announce our merger under the Syrian Liberation Front," the two groups announced.

Both groups are hardline Islamist rebel factions with a strong presence in rebel-held parts of the country's north, along the border between the provinces of Aleppo and Idlib.

Idlib province is held mostly by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an alliance dominated by jihadists once linked to Al-Qaeda.

In their founding statement, the Syrian Liberation Front called on rebel groups to join their new movement.

Sam Heller, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, said the merger was linked to HTS's growing power in northern Syria.

"This is an attempt to form a counterweight to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which is apparently positioning itself for a new fight with Zinki," he said.

"Zinki and Ahrar are the two most substantial non-jihadist factions in the rebel-held north, and Zinki in particular has been an obstacle to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham's attempts to consolidate control."

Syria's conflict erupted in 2011 with protests against the government of Bashar al-Assad, but it has since evolved into a complex war.

The opposition movement has long been fractured, but mainstream rebels have struggled in recent years to fight off the influence of powerful jihadist factions like HTS.


Syria rebels prepare to quit penultimate pocket of Ghouta

Egyptians prepare to vote with Sisi reelection guaranteed

Israel ministers welcome US appointment of 'friend' Bolton

Iran slams US sanctions over hacking scheme

Iraqi widow saved recruits from slaughter by IS

Policeman dead in bombing in Alexandria

Syrians in Manbij fear Turkey, bet on US

Quick victory unlikely in Egypt assault on IS

Sisi, Egypt's undisputed leader and 'father figure'

PKK to quit northwest Iraq after Turkish threat

Iraqi asylum seeker gets life sentence for London bombing

UK says Israeli sentencing of Palestinian teenage girl "emblematic"

Sarkozy vows to clear name in Libya probe

Syria announces second evacuation deal for rebel-held Eastern Ghouta.

Three dead after suspected IS gunman takes hostages in France

170,000 flee violence in Syria's Afrin

Norway proposes bill to ban full-face veils in education

Turkey says EU statements on Cyprus 'unacceptable'

Air strikes hit Ghouta despite rebel ceasefire effort

US approves $1 billion in Saudi defence contracts

Saudi to carry out nuclear power deal with or without US

In world first, flight to Israel crosses Saudi airspace

Saudi, US must pursue 'urgent efforts' for Yemen peace: Mattis

US, Jordan launch new counterterrorism training centre

Turkey’s largest media group to be sold to Erdogan ally

Rebels evacuate Syria's Eastern Ghouta

Exiled Syrian doctors treat refugees in Turkey

Two Hamas security force members killed in raid on bomb suspect

Turkey gives watchdog power to block internet broadcasts

EU leaders to condemn Turkey’s ‘illegal’ actions in Mediterranean

Sarkozy says life ‘living hell’ since corruption allegations

Hezbollah leader says debt threatens Lebanon disaster

Ahed Tamimi reaches plea deal for eight months in jail

UN launching final push to salvage Libya political agreement

Conditions for displaced from Syria's Ghouta 'tragic': UN

Sisi urges Egyptians to vote, denies excluding rivals

Rights Watch says Libya not ready for elections

Saudis revamp school curriculum to combat Muslim Brotherhood

American mother trapped in Syria’s Ghouta calls out Trump

Syria workers say French firm abandoned them to jihadists

Grim Nowruz for Kurds fleeing Afrin

Sarkozy back in custody for second day of questioning

'Saudization' taking its toll on salesmen

Syrian rebels reach evacuation deal in Eastern Ghouta town

Israel confirms it hit suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007