Last week, the Islamic State attacked rebel forces along a stretch of territory in the northern Aleppo countryside linking rebel positions in Aleppo city to the Turkish border. As a result, the “Aleppo Victory Army” coalition was forced to divert its attention away from the regime in order to combat IS.
Ahmed Kara Ali, the spokesperson of rebel brigade Ahrar a-Sham, explains to Syria Direct’s Ammar Hammou why he believes this suggests at least a tacit cooperation between IS and the regime.
The Syrian regime has faced accusations of cooperating with ISIS in northern Aleppo. From Ahrar al-Sham’s point of view, how did this start?
“As the rebels were claiming victories against the Assad regime in Idlib and preparing for an operation to liberate Aleppo, having formed an operations room for the task, the rebels were surprised by an IS sneak attack in the northern Aleppo countryside, and this of course serves the regime and reduces the pressure on it.”
What are the signs or evidence pointing to this coordination?
“We have not observed tangible coordination like communications over walkie-talkies, but what is happening on the ground raises our suspicions and shows that the regime and IS are two sides of the same operation. The regime has engaged in several missions:
1-Heavily targeting the northern countryside with its planes, specifically the Marea area
2-Targeting the infantry school and its environs with artillery and rocket fire from the Industrial City.
3-Attacking villages of the northern countryside from Nabul and Zahra, which are usually used in defensive operations.
4-Targeting rebel reinforcement columns but not IS’s reinforcements.”
Can you clarify how these operations demonstrate IS-regime coordination?
“IS attacked northern Aleppo and the areas that the regime had bombed, which were rebel bases in the area. IS attacked Sauran in the Marea area, which had been bombed by the regime, and the same thing happened in other villages in the northern countryside.”