October 2016 Idlib Governorate clashes

The October 2016 Idlib Governorate clashes are violent confrontations between the Salafist jihadist group Jund al-Aqsa and the Salafist Syrian rebel group the Ahrar al-Sham, supported by several other rebel groups. The two groups were previously allied during the 2016 Hama offensive, but sporadic clashes also occurred time by time.[15]

October 2016 Idlib Governorate clashes
Part of the inter-rebel conflict during the Syrian Civil War
Date4–13 October 2016
(1 week and 2 days)

Ceasefire; Jund al-Aqsa joins al-Nusra Front[1][2]


Ahrar al-Sham

Jund al-Aqsa
Supported by:
Jabhat Fateh al-Sham[6]

 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant[7][8]
Commanders and leaders
Abu Yahia al-Hamawi[9]
(general commander of Ahrar al-Sham)
Muhammad al-Dabbous [10][5]
(Ahrar al-Sham senior commander)
Ali Hilal al-Ahmad 
(Ahrar al-Sham commander)[11]
Unknown 1,600 fighters[12]
Casualties and losses
Unknown number of dead, 800 defected[12] Unknown number of dead, 150 defected to ISIL[6]
100–170 fighters killed on both sides[13][14]

The clashes

Tensions between the two groups initiated on 4 October, when Ahrar al-Sham captured a Jund al-Aqsa member accused of being a cell for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. In response, Jund al-Aqsa militants kidnapped an Ahrar al-Sham member, beat his wife, and shot his brother. Both sides called for the release of their captured members and threatened military action.[15]

The conflict escalated on 6 October, as clashes broke out throughout the Idlib Governorate and the northern Hama Governorate. Jund al-Aqsa captured all Ahrar al-Sham positions in the town of Khan Shaykhun and attacked them in northern Hama, while Ahrar al-Sham expelled the former from Maarat al-Nu'man and 4 other villages in Idlib.[3] 800 fighters from Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham defected to Jund al-Aqsa during the clashes.[12]

As a reaction to the clashes, several other rebel groups signed a statement announcing that they would side with Ahrar al-Sham against Jund al-Aqsa in the conflict. The signatory groups were:[16] Jaysh al-Islam, Suqour al-Sham Brigade, Sham Legion, Army of Mujahideen, Fatah Halab, and Fastaqim Union.

On 8 October, clashes between the two groups spread to a village in Jabal Zawiya,[17] and a senior military commander of Ahrar al-Sham was killed.[10] The next day, in an attempt to end the conflict and find protection, Jund al-Aqsa pledged its allegiance to the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front (also known as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham). However, clashes continued in Idlib, after Ahrar al-Sham rejected the move and vowed to continue fighting Jund al-Aqsa.[4]

Two days later, a ceasefire agreement was signed between Jund al-Aqsa, Ahrar al-Sham, and al-Nusra.[1] However, clashes between the two groups soon erupted again in Idlib.[18] In addition, Jund al-Aqsa, along with al-Nusra, reportedly attacked a base of Ahrar Al-Sham in the town of Tahtaya.[19] Meanwhile, 150 Jund al-Aqsa fighters reportedly defected to ISIL as result of the rebel infighting and their group's pledge to the al-Nusra Front.[6]

On 13 October, the general commander of Ahrar al-Sham announced the "end" of Jund al-Aqsa.[2]


On 22 October, Jund al-Aqsa as part of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham attacked Ahrar al-Sham's headquarter in Sarmin.[20]

In January 2017, the al-Nusra Front launched several coordinated attacks against Ahrar al-Sham headquarters and positions in the northern Idlib Governorate, near the Bab al-Hawa Border Crossing. In addition, al-Nusra also attacked Ahrar al-Sham outposts in Darkush and Jisr al-Shughur.[21] On 20 January, Jund al-Aqsa raided an Ahrar al-Sham prison in the Zawiya Mountain and freed 13 of their prisoners.[22] Meanwhile, in the same area, al-Nusra attacked the Mountain Hawks Brigade of the Free Idlib Army, and captured a commander and his equipment.[23]

See also


  1. @hxhassan (10 October 2016). "The agreement between Ahrar al-Sham, Jund al-Aqsa and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham to end clashes between the former two" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  2. "qasioun.net". www.qasioun.net.
  3. "Jihadist civil war boils up as jihadists trade blows in Hama and Idlib". Al-Masdar News. 7 October 2016.
  4. "Syria extremist group joins al-Qaida affiliate". AP. 9 October 2016. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  5. "Combat of Jund al-Aqsa against Military Factions :causes, details & prospects". El-Dorar Al-Shamia. 14 October 2016.
  6. Fadel, Leith (12 October 2016). "150 rebels defect to ISIS in northern Syria: reports". al-Masdar News.
  7. al-Omar, Saleem. "Islamist Groups Ahrar al-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa Go to War".
  8. "Google Translate". translate.google.com.
  9. "News of the day: Abu Yahya al-Hamwi: Jund al-Aqsa work brings to mind a scene of state regulation". El-Wehda. 8 October 2016.
  10. "How kill "jungle pin" hands on "Jund al-Aqsa?"". Enab Baladi. 8 October 2016.
  11. "Ahrar al-Sham commander in Khan Sheikhoun "Ali Hilal al-Ahmad" was among those executed by Jund al-Aqsa today". 7 October 2016.
  12. "Source: hundreds of fighters to leave their factions (Jund al-Aqsa) within two month". All4Syria. 7 October 2016.
  13. Kajjo, Sirwan. "Rebel Infighting Further Complicates Solution for Syria".
  14. Syria: Tens of Terrorists Killed in Further Infighting between Jund al-Aqsa, Ahrar al-Sham in Idlib
  15. "Ahrar al-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa alliance in northern Hama showing cracks". Al-Masdar News. 6 October 2016.
  16. "News of the day: the major factions of the resistance of the Syrian military announced that it stands with the Ahrar al-Sham in the face of Jund al-Aqsa". El-Wehda. 7 October 2016.
  17. "Casualties for Ahrar al-Sham during the control of Jund al-Aqsa on a village in the countryside of Idlib". Syria HR. 8 October 2016.
  18. @InsideSourceInt (10 October 2016). "#Syria // #Idlib // Clashes re igniting between JAL and Ahrar now in Idlib after relative calm" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  19. "Jihadist civil war escalates in Idlib as more groups join the battle". 11 October 2016.
  20. "Tension return between Jund al-Aqsa and Ahrar al-Sham in the countryside of Idlib and shooting in al-Suwaidaa". Syria HR. 22 October 2016.
  21. Al-Hamra (20 January 2017). "Why Al-Qaeda/JFS Is Attacking Ahrar al-Sham: @charles_lister's Take". Medium Corporation.
  22. Leith Fadel (20 January 2017). "Trouble in jihadist paradise as rival factions battle in Idlib". Al-Masdar News.
  23. "Clashes in the countryside of Idlib between the "Brigade Hawks Mountain" and "Front victory"". Nour Radio. 21 January 2017.
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