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Jabhat a-Nusra, unchallenged, expands territory in Idlib

November 12, 2014 By Brent Eng and Osama Abu Zeid […]

12 November 2014

November 12, 2014

By Brent Eng and Osama Abu Zeid

AMMAN: Jabhat a-Nusra, Ahar a-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa surrounded an FSA-controlled town in Idlib province on Tuesday in an ongoing effort to consolidate control and purge the province of US-backed rebels.

“Ahar a-Sham, Jabhat a-Nusra and Jund al-Aqsa are besieging the town of a-Rami, located in the north part of Jabal a-Zawiya, from all sides and demand Ahrar a-Zawiya [the FSA brigade in a-Rami] to surrender and withdraw,” the pro-opposition Sham News Network reported on Tuesday.

One journalist on the ground says that Nusra targeted a-Rami because of fighters and weapons reportedly loyal to US-backed Syrian Revolutionaries Front leader Jamal Maruf still hidden in the village.

“Ahrar a-Zawiya hid fighters loyal to Jamal Maruf and their weapons in a-Rami,” a spokesperson for the pro-opposition Munbar Media in Idlib told Syria Direct Wednesday.

a-Rami Village Residents of a-Rami village plead Nusra to stop its attack on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of @aynmedia_net

“Jabhat a-Nusra, Ahrar a-Sham and others demanded that they surrender those fighters and weapons,” he added.

The three militant Islamist groups surrounded a-Rami after reinforcements arrived on Tuesday, allowing them to cut off the last supply roads into the town, reported Dubai-based news agency Al-Arabiya.

One local pro-opposition news source said that the Islamist groups had begun storming the town on Wednesday, but the report could not be independently confirmed.

A group of women in a-Rami protested what appeared to be the imminent takeover of their village on Tuesday in a video widely circulated over social media Wednesday.

“Where are you, those who call for humanity and Islam? The free women are standing at the gates of the village to prevent the killing,” says the unnamed man filming the demonstration. 

The encirclement of a-Rami comes in the wake of a reported agreement concluded on Monday between Jabhat a-Nusra and Ahar a-Sham on one side and the US-backed SFR and Harakat Hazm on the other. The pact reportedly stipulates an immediate ceasefire between the two sides and an exchange of prisoners, according to Jordanian news agency A-Sabeel.

The agreement was moderated by the local Sharia Court in southern Idlib and administered by Ahar a-Sham.

Last week Jabhat a-Nusra, reportedly aided by Ahrar a-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa, drove the SRF and Jamal Maruf out from its base in nearby Jabal a-Zawiya in southern Idlib, upsetting the power balance in the province.

In related news, Nusra reportedly transported a large number of forces, including a collection of tanks and armored cars, through Khan a-Sabul – the former base of SRF ally Harakat Hazm – in southern Idlib earlier this week in a video published by an official Jabhat a-Nusra social media account on Tuesday. 

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