DAMASCUS, SYRIA (1:30 A.M.) – In the near future, a huge internal war may erupt once again in Idlib province as Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) fighters reinforced their presence along the border to prevent the Turkish Armed Forces from entering the governorate.
On Thursday, the Syrian Al-Qaeda group deployed masked fighters with heavy weaponry at a number of border crossings while multiple HTS tanks patrolled the town of Atmah. HTS bulldozers were also establishing new trenches while jihadist volunteers began building makeshift walls to deter a Turkish incursion upon the Al-Qaeda heartland.
According to a controversial clause discussed in the Astana talks, the Turkish Army could deploy to Idlib province to safeguard its newly implemented safe zone.
In response and possibly by direct order from Ankara, Ahrar Al-Sham reinforced all its military bases near HTS-held areas over fears of Al-Qaeda attacks in rural Idlib.
To warn Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions against an alliance with Turkey, HTS also arrested two FSA militants in the town of Maarrat al-Nu’man after they were accused of trying to leave for the Jarabulus pocket, a region in northern Aleppo where the Turkish Armed Forces led the so-called Euphrates Shield offensive last year.
Local rebel sources informed Al-Masdar News that HTS had begun a witch-hunt on any rebel militants trying to leave for northern Aleppo. FSA factions based in the Idlib rebel mainland are reportedly deeply divided on whether to side with Turkey or Al-Qaeda.
Two weeks ago, a famous FSA fighter was also arrested for smoking, an actions which violates Al-Qaeda’s strict religious laws that rule Idlib province.
Contrary to all other rebel-held regions of Syria, HTS does not hold any presence in the Jarabulus pocket. The group remains a terrorist group according to Ankara, Washington and the US.