November 18, 2014
A curious case of infighting within the Islamic Front took place earlier this week when fighters with Ahrar a-Sham raided the Bab al-Hawa border crossing in northern Idlib Sunday, the Jaish al-Islam fighters who controlled it to abandon their posts, reported pro-opposition Smart News Agency.
A meeting between the two group's religious judges concluded afterwards that “the Ahrar a-Sham group's leader Abu Khazami acted of his own will, without consulting leadership, and the leadership is very angry with him,” reported the salafi-jihadi Sada al-Tawheed media group.
A citizen journalist and former member of Jaish al-Islam's media office, who participated in mediation efforts between the two factions, confirmed that the Ahrar a-Sham unit—composed of 30 men—acted without orders in an interview with Syria’s Direct Ammar Hamou Sunday.
Although the Bab al-Hawa crossing has since been returned to Jaish al-Islam, says the journalist—who asked not to be named for security concerns—Jaish al-Islam says the attack robbed the group of its dignity, and wants the perpetrators punished.
“People portray the situation as one of weakness,” the mediator says. Punishment is necessary, he says, “to restore our standing.”
Q: Are the news reports true about Jaish al-Islam being expelled for Bab al-Hawa? Who expelled them?
A group of 30 people from Ahrar a-Sham attacked Jaish al-Islam at the Bab al-Hawa crossing.
A recent picture of Syrians crossing into Turkey via Bab al-Hawa. Photo courtesy of Bab al-Hawa.
Q: And how did Jaish al-Islam respond?
The Jaish al-Islam fighters acted wisely—the left the headquarters, and everything inside, without launching a bullet. They left wearing just their clothes in order to prevent a firefight.
Q: Did they take back the headquarters?
We got back the headquarters, but we want them to return our dignity by means of the [Ahrar a-Sham] leadership punishing the group that attacked.
Q: Since the headquarters was handed back to Jaish al-Islam, why is punishment necessary?
Because people, and a lot of the [media] channels that spread dissent (fitna), perceive or portray the situation as one of weakness. Therefore, it's necessary to restore our standing and [have people] see that.
Q: Why didn't Ahrar a-Sham leadership get involved in the problem and stop their fighters?
The problem was as follows: The event was small-scale, and Ahrar a-Sham's leadership didn't know about that faction's movement [against Bab al-Hawa], therefore they didn't order them [to stop] or prevent them from acting.