At least 40 fighters from Jabhat Fateh al-Sham were killed in an airstrike in Syria, to be added to the previous casualties of the group and to raise more questions about targeting them in this critical time.
Jabhat Fateh al-Sham is one of the largest rebel groups fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, It was previously a branch for al-Qaeda in Syria under the name “Jabaht al-Nusra” but has later changed its name and declared splitting from the terrorist organization. However, this didn’t change the international refusal of the group
However, this didn’t change the international refusal of the group, and it was excluded from all of the ceasefire agreements in the country.
The group was excluded also from the Turkish-Russian ceasefire agreement that went into effect on 30 December, days after recapturing Aleppo by Assad regime and its backers.
Some analysts say that Fatah al-Sham has damaged the Syrian revolution instead of giving it more power. Fatah al-Sham has always had clashes with other rebel groups who don’t share its ideology, creating voids and disputes in the rebel-held areas.
In addition, the existence of Fatah al-Sham groups in some areas was the justification that Assad regime needed to bomb these areas intensively under the term of fighting terrorism while the world refused to help fearing that their aid may end in the terrorists’ hands.
Targeting Fatah al-Sham
At least 40 fighters from Jabhat Fateh al-Sham have been killed in airstrikes in Aleppo province on Thursday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was unclear who carried out Thursday’s raids in western Aleppo province since a US-led coalition, the Syrian regime, and Russia have all carried out strikes against Fateh al-Sham positions in recent weeks.
“Warplanes, which may have been Russian or coalition aircraft, struck a Fateh al-Sham camp in Sheikh Suleiman,” the Britain-based Observatory said.
“At least 10 senior commanders of the group have been killed among countless other fighters in Idlib province,” al-Jazeera reported.
“This raises the question of whether there is a change in policy, or if there’s more intelligence coming in from the ground pinpointing where these leaders are.”
According to the monitor, the group has sustained major losses in recent weeks with about 100 of its fighters killed since the start of 2017.
However, US military said later that it was behind this attack.
“The removal of this training camp disrupts training operations and discourages hardline Islamist and Syrian opposition groups from joining or cooperating with al-Qaida on the battlefield,” Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said in the statement.
Davis said the Shaykh Sulayman training camp had been operational since 2013, adding that since the start of this year more than 150 Fatah al-Sham militants have been killed in U.S. air strikes.
Earlier in January, Airstrikes in northern Syria have killed at least 25 members of the group according to monitors.
The Observatory for Human Rights said it could not determine if the strikes, in the countryside of Idlib province, were carried out by the US-led coalition or Russia.
Among the dead were leading members of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, which was holding a meeting there, the Observatory added, without identifying them. Many others were wounded, it said.
What is the goal of these operations
Although the US military carries out these attacks as a past of its campaign against al-Qaeda, many see that it is giving Assad regime the favor it needed, as the regime prepares for a major battle in Idlib.
Idlib province at the border with Turkey is almost entirely controlled by rebel groups fighting to topple Assad, including powerful Islamist factions such as Ahrar al-Sham and Fateh al-Sham.
Around Damascus, the pace of local deals has picked up in recent months, notably since rebels agreed to leave Daraya southwest of the capital in August for Idlib some 300 km (200 miles) away.
Sources close to Assad regime said that “some 10,000 fighters had been given safe passage to Idlib so far from areas other than Aleppo, and expected more accords in coming months to send thousands of fighters to Idlib from areas near Damascus and south of it.”
In addition, 40.000 of rebels and civilians were evacuated from eastern Aleppo to rebel-held Idlib, allowing the Assad regime to take full control of the city after years of fighting.
So by attacking Fatah al-Sham leaders and training camps, its forces will be weakened and the battle willbe easier.
In addition, targeting Fatah al-Sham is a great service for the Russian-Turkish political solution.
Weakening Fatah al-Sham in Idlib will prevent its intervention in the future agreements between the rebels and Assad regime. Such agreements are expected as results of the peace talks that Russia and Turkey will hold in Kazakhstan and Fatah al-Sham is thought to refuse these solutions and prevent other rebel groups from abiding it.
The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.