Jabhat al-Nusra overtakes Hazm in Aleppo countryside

Some “moderate” leaders had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, which questions the West and US’ support to these factions.

al-monitor Rebel fighters from Harakat Hazm (Hazm movement) take positions in Aleppo's Sheikh Said district, June 10, 2014.  Photo by REUTERS/Hamid Khatib.

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weapons, syria, opposition, jabhat al-nusra, idlib, is, hasakah, aleppo

Mar 3, 2015

Once again, quality weapons given by some Western countries to armed factions in Syria have reached Jabhat al-Nusra, which is internationally classified as a terrorist organization.

That the weapons are going to those whom the international community are supposed to fight is not the only irony of the last few days. The events on Friday and Saturday [Feb. 27 and 28] in the countrysides of Aleppo and Hasakah were very informative about one aspect of the next phase and the nature of the confrontation.

For a relatively long time, the Hazm movement has remained one of the factions that the West backs the most. Hazm obtained US-made Tow missiles, yet the movement was exterminated by Jabhat al-Nusra. The latter stormed all of Hazm’s strongholds in Regiment 46 near al-Atareb, al-Mishtil, Miznar, and al-Mohandisin in the west Aleppo countryside under the gaze of international coalition aircraft, which, for one reason or another, didn’t help their allies and left them easy prey to Jabhat al-Nusra — a terrorist organization that these aircraft came to fight. The planes were in the skies of Hasakah province in coordination with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which have achieved strategic progress against the Islamic State (IS).

Thus, when one of the two factions was retreating and losing important areas, the other was progressing and seizing the weapons of Hazm and of other factions whose strongholds were in Regiment 46.

Western-backed Jabhat Thuwwar Suria also collapsed within a few hours in the Idlib countryside. Jabhat al-Nusra seized all its weapons depots. So there are many questions regarding why the US and the West abandoned their allies and on whether there was a decision to replace the “tools” and use new factions that would spearhead the confrontation on the ground. The most important question is: If the West’s allies have been left as easy prey to Jabhat al-Nusra as the best way to get rid of them, why have coalition aircraft not tried to prevent what they consider a terrorist organization from seizing the weapons of these factions by destroying the arms depots — which the coalition countries played a prominent role stockpiling?

Last Friday [Feb. 27], Jabhat al-Nusra broke into all of Hazm’s strongholds in the vicinity al-Arareb, in defiance of protests by city residents, who demonstrated against the decision to attack Regiment 46 and seize all the weapons depots, which contained modern missiles, tanks, carriers, cannons and ammunition. During the clashes, which lasted several hours, dozens were killed and wounded, mostly from Hazm.

In the city of Dara Aza, Hazm reached a settlement with Jabhat al-Nusra, whereby the parties would keep the city away from the fighting. Then, this Hazm branch announced its defection by joining the independent Ibn Taymiyyah Brigades. This means that Hazm no longer exists. It has suffered the fate as its previous ally Jabhat Thuwwar Suria a few months ago. The leaders of Hazm and Jabhat Thuwwar Suria are now refugees in Turkey, waiting for circumstances to change to partly regain their role if there is an opportunity to do so. Hazm announced that its gunmen have merged with al-Jabha al-Shamiya.

Meanwhile, the events of Aleppo produced surprises, even scandals, revealing part of the truth about the so-called moderate factions, which Washington and other Western countries have supported in the hope of toppling the Syrian regime. It was revealed that one of the founders of the Hazm movement — which Washington favored over all the other factions and supplied with Tow anti-armor missiles — had formerly pledged allegiance to Jabhat al-Nusra and IS. Abu Jalal Shalluh led Hazm in Dara Aza. But he was known to have pledged allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, then he pledged allegiance to al-Nusra leader Abu Mohammed al-Joulani. Suddenly, he abandoned his religious appearance and became one of the founders of the Hazm movement, which was rumored to be secular. He then dropped his secularism and decided to join the Ibn Taymiyyah Brigades. This gives an idea about the nature of the “moderates” on whom the West wagered to stop the expansion of extremism and terrorism in Syria.

On the other hand, activists released a video to prove that the leader of the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, Abu Ali al-Baridi, whom Jabhat al-Nusra fought in Daraa countryside, had already pledged allegiance to IS. In the video, Baridi appeared singing “Dawlatuna Mansura,” a song that pays clear tribute to Baghdadi. Perhaps this has required continuing to pursue the leaders of the brigade and get rid of them. The leader of the Abdullah Rawaahah Battalion, Rida al-Zaim, was assassinated by unknown assailants.

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