The ISIS terrorist group launched a surprise offense on Monday against militants from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and Jabhat Tahrir al-Sham in Syria’s northern Hama and southern Idlib and were able to control a number of villages after infiltrating from regime-held areas.
Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that ISIS militants, who had escaped from the city of Raqqa, which is now 90 percent controlled by Syrian Democratic Forces, were currently taking refuge in the countryside of Hama and the province of Idlib.
An opposition military source revealed that ISIS terrorists, who had launched a surprise attack against HTS fighters in the countryside of northeastern Hama, came from the side of Akayrabat after crossing regime-held areas.
The source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the HTS leadership operating there had allowed those militants to enter the Rahjan village on condition of handing over their arms and joining their ranks.
However, after they arrived to the area on Sunday night with three tanks and 20 trucks, ISIS launched an unexpected attack against the HTS militants, seizing control of a number of villages there.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday that ISIS had taken 15 villages from Tahrir al-Sham, but that the alliance then took five of them back.
HTS, led by al Qaeda’s former affiliate the Nusra Front, said in a statement that ISIS had stormed several villages in the area and accused the Syrian regime forces of allowing it to cross regime territory.
Separately, a new rebel faction dubbed Ansar al-Furqan fi Bilad al-Sham announced its formation, vowing to fight both Turkey and the Free Syrian Army.
The new faction includes fundamentalists from “al-Muhajereen and al-Ansar” in HTS.
Meanwhile, the Turkish army announced on Monday that its reconnaissance team had commenced on Sunday scouting the territory in order to deploy troops inside the Idlib province. This is part of the military movement launched by Turkish troops to help push its forces inside Idlib and part of a joint mission with Russia and Iran to monitor a ceasefire agreement in Syria’s de-escalation zones.