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Syria Direct: News Update 8-25-15

Ahrar a-Sham denies affiliation with Al-Qaeda Ahrar a-Sham’s General Command […]

25 August 2015

Ahrar a-Sham denies affiliation with Al-Qaeda

Ahrar a-Sham’s General Command denied any affiliation with “foreign parties including Al-Qaeda” on Monday, while a leaked “internal memo” published the same day outlines the “institutional reorganization” of the group’s military wing.

“The organization does not have any affiliation to any foreign parties including Al-Qaeda,” read the official statement published on Ahrar a-Sham’s official website Monday, which also stressed the local origin of their movement and determination to “topple the regime” and to “enable the revolutionary Syrian people to realize their destiny in accordance with their history and Islamic identity.”

The statement recognized Turkey and Qatar’s “efforts to stand with the revolution and alleviate the suffering of the revolution’s children.” It comes on the heels of reports of US hesitation to directly cooperate with Ahrar a-Sham as well as Turkey permitting its airspace to be used for launching airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria.  

The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood praised the Ahrar a-Sham statement, saying the two organizations “shared principles” that “make for fertile ground for great cooperation and the opportunity to foster integration between the political and the military,” reported the pro-opposition website Islam Memo Tuesday.

Ahrar a-Sham’s General Command also announced the “institutional reorganization of its military wing into a core, organized army” under the name “Suqur a-Sham Brigades,” according to a leaked internal document published by several opposition media sources including Zaman al-Wasl.

This “institutional reorganization” opens the door for enlistment into this new “centralized force” if potential recruits satisfy nine conditions, among which: they must be men in good health, religiously devoted, fighters must be younger than 30 and officers must be younger than 35. New enlistees will also receive a monthly salary of $150 and their families will receive rations.

Rebel tunnel blast re-ignites west Aleppo

After weeks of quiet in western Aleppo city, rebel fighters battled regime forces on Tuesday for the second day in the Zahra neighborhood after they detonated a tunnel underneath an orphanage adjacent to the city’s Air Force Intelligence complex.

The orphanage was 90% destroyed in the explosion, a spokesman for the Dawn of the Caliphate Brigades, responsible for the explosion, told Syria Direct on Tuesday. “But we weren’t able to storm it because of heavy fire,” he said, adding that “the battle is ongoing.”

The brigade spokesman said rebels were “forced” to blow up the tunnel “out of fear that the regime forces would discover it since their soldiers were also digging in the same area.”

The largely pro-regime Zahra neighborhood contains several military installations, including the mostly destroyed Air Force Intelligence compound. It sits on the edge of regime-controlled west Aleppo, while rebels control the countryside to the north and west.

Monday’s explosion marks the fifth time this year rebels have detonated a tunnel in the area around the Air Force intelligence complex. Rebels were previously able to destroy and capture large portions of the complex in March before being pushed out.

 Rebel tunnel explodes in west Aleppo. Photo courtesy of Yosef Kherfan.

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