Following two weeks of bloody clashes in the embattled northern countryside of Hama, the al-Qaeda linked Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) managed to subjugate the ISIS-backed Liwa’ Al-Aqsa after besieging them in Khan Sheikhoun and Morek.
Over 300 rebels were killed in the infighting, most of whom were executed Jaish Al-Nasr prisoners of war. Some three convoys belonging to the HTS coalition were reportedly ambushed near Khan Sheikhoun.
Faced with the prospects of a protracted siege like Kafraya and Foua’a, HTS negotiated with Liwa’ Al-Aqsa offering a safe exit towards Islamic State territory in east Hama. In return, Liwa’ Al-Aqsa would release its HTS prisoners and relinquish its heavy weapons and vehicles.
Prior to the evacuation of the last batch of Al-Aqsa fighters, the group burnt all its heavy equipment to spite its rival rebels. The evacuation reportedly took place along the SAA-controlled Ithriya Highway where a number of convoys belonging to the terror group were ambushed by Syrian government troops.
Liwa’ Al-Aqsa is estimated to number between a thousand and two-thousand men with some unconfirmed reports suggesting some 2,100 fighters joined the Islamic State in Raqqa.
ISIS will likely use its much needed manpower boost to counterattack the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Raqqa countryside or the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in west Palmyra or even bolster their cracking defenses around Deir Hafer in Aleppo’s eastern countryside.
The official HTS statement: