Is a truce underway in eastern Ghouta?

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As the Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union and Jaish al-Islam announced their support to a truce with the Syrian army in eastern Ghouta, the commander of the Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union resigned, which may be a message to Zahran Alloush who is clinging to his position as commander of Jaish al-Islam.

Developments are accelerating in eastern Ghouta. For the first time ever, and following years of battles and wars, the situation seems to be headed toward appeasement.

After Jaish al-Islam gave its implicit approval to a truce with the Syrian army, Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union, one of the largest military groups in Ghouta, also called for embracing the truce, albeit under certain conditions. This gave the truce new momentum and improved its chances of being signed.

However, hours after declaring his stance on the truce, Abu Mohammed al-Fateh, commander of Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union, submitted his resignation. Fateh, whose original name is Yasser al-Qadri, said in an audiotape broadcast on Nov. 28 that “every fighter, rebel and faction should accept any honorable initiative that preserves our tenets and achievements and aims at stopping the bloodshed plaguing our land. Death and murder are not our goal.”

Observers deemed this as a public approval of the truce that is being discussed in eastern Ghouta and that sparked wide controversy given the uncertainty surrounding the content of the truce and the parties thereto. What further deepened this controversy is that only hours after he declared his position, Fateh resigned from his post. This raised questions about the seriousness of his stance, the reasons that led him to take it and the consequences it might entail in light of his resignation.

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Fateh, who serves as the deputy to Zahran Alloush, the Unified Military Command of Eastern Ghouta commander, announced that he “submitted his resignation as commander of Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union to the Shura Council.” Several reasons led him to take this decision, he added, namely the will to “support the idea of ​​rotational leadership, avoid having the revolutionary factions attributed to certain people and inject new blood in the leadership positions.”

This can be understood as an insinuation to Alloush, who is accused of clinging to his position and seeking to impose his hegemony across Ghouta. Although Fateh is Alloush’s deputy, the tense relationship between the two has repeatedly reached the point of armed fights.

In reference to the crossroad reached by the Syrian crisis and the need to brace for it, Fateh tweeted from his official Twitter account, “I believe the name of the revolution's next phase will be 'change,' it will be carried out through 'taking initiative' and 'being courageous.' This can only happen through 'collective work.' Let's start with ourselves.”

Fateh took over the leadership of Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union in the beginning of 2014. He originally started working in Shabab al-Huda (Huda Youth Brigade), founded by Abu Suleiman Tafoor, and he was gradually promoted until he filled the position of general commander. He subsequently took over the command of Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union upon the formation of the union.

Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union was established in the middle of December 2013, and it includes several factions. Chief among these is the Huda Youth Brigade, the Al Sahaba Brigades, the Al Habib Mustafa Brigades, the Amjad Al Islam rally and the Dereh Al Aassima Brigade. These five groups include more than 50 battalions and brigades, and the number of their members is estimated at about 10,000 gunmen.

Although the union is part of the Unified Military Command of Eastern Ghouta, which is led by Alloush, this did not prevent rivalries from escalating between the two camps, especially after the Fajr al-Umma Brigade, led by Abu Khaled al-Zahta, joined Ajnad al-Sham. The main reason that led this brigade to join Ajnad al-Sham is to avoid Alloush’s revenge given the highly lucrative tunnels that he controls.

In the same context, there are growing indications within Ghouta that Alloush, Jaish al-Islam's commander, is acting as if the truce is imminent, as he actively seeks to persuade wide segments of citizens, faction leaders and heads of civil bodies of its usefulness and inevitability.

Activists from Ghouta confirmed that Alloush called for appeasement in several meetings held with some notables and that military soldiers cannot continue to fight endlessly.

Also, sheikhs affiliated with Alloush sought to find Sharia justifications for the truce. These justifications are often based on al-Hudaybiyah reconciliation that was carried out by the Prophet Muhammad with the Quraish infidels.

On Nov. 27, some Friday sermons focused on the truce legitimacy and urged citizens to embrace it.

In contrast, Alloush is facing stiff opposition on the part of some factions like Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra, as well as some figures, dignitaries and traders, while traders are the most affected by the signing of the truce given the potential decrease in prices this truce might lead to.

Meanwhile, Jabhat al-Nusra is playing a prominent role in trying to prevent the signing of the truce, which stipulates driving Jabhat al-Nusra out of eastern Ghouta. Also, the group dreads having the same scenario reiterated in southern Damascus.

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Found in: syrian army, sharia, militants, jaish al-islam, jabhat al-nusra, ghouta, ajnad al-sham islamic union
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