Hundreds of Ahrar al-Sham fighters prepare to evacuate northern Hama for Afrin, Aleppo
Idlib - SMART
Hundreds of fighters of the Ahrar al-Sham Islamist Movement surrender their weapons to the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and prepare to evacuate from the northern Hama countryside, Central Syria, to the Afrin area, which is controlled by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Northern Syria.
The HTS is an Islamist opposition faction previously known as the al-Nusra Front, consisting of fighting groups including the Haqq Brigade, Jabhat Ansar al-Din, and Jaysh al-Sunnah.
The Ahrar al-Sham Islamist Movement is a part of the National Liberation Front (NLF), which is an opposition group formed by the two Sunni Islamist groups Ahrar al-Sham and the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement. The NLF is the main rival of the HTS in Northwestern Syria.
An anonymous source from the Ahrar al-Sham reported that the fighters decided to evacuate the Hama countryside for areas controlled by the Euphrates Shield Operation and Olive Branch Battle factions in northern and eastern Aleppo.
The source added that the HTS refused the fighters' terms to keep all their weapons, remain at their outposts adjacent to the Syrian government forces' outposts and act independently from the HTS.
The source noted that the fighters, which number between 1,000 and 1,500, will instead surrender their heavy weapons to the HTS and evacuate the area on an unknown date.
Earlier, 1,000 people, including FSA fighters, activists, and civilians left the city of Atarib in western Aleppo, after the HTS gained control of it. The people evacuated Atarib after an agreement between the HTS and representatives of the FSA fighters and residents.
The HTS gained control of most of the the northern Aleppo countryside, Idlib governorate, and northern Hama countryside, following days of clashes with the FSA, killing and injuring fighters on both sides and civilians.