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NOW

Damascus rebel allies
trade new accusations

Faylaq al-Rahman said that Jaysh al-Islam stormed two of its headquarters in eastern Ghouta.

Jaysh al-Islam fighters. (image via Jaishalislam.com)

BEIRUT – The two most powerful rebel groups operating around Damascus have once again leveled angry recriminations against each other as tension continues to ratchet up between the opposition factions.

 

Faylaq al-Rahman issued a statement Wednesday accusing their ally Jaysh al-Islam of storming two of its headquarters overnight Monday in the eastern Ghouta towns of Douma and the nearby As-Shayfouniyyeh area.

 

“[Jaysh al-Islam members] forced out the Faylaq [al-Rahman] mujahideen from their headquarters, seizing their hardware, [including] from the Signals HQ that plays an important role in servicing the mujahideen,” the statement claimed.

 

The rebel group said that Jaysh al-Islam’s provocative measures came after a dispute on April 18 along the Jisreen front in the besieged Eastern Ghouta province, where fighters from Faylaq al-Rahman clashed with their rebel allies over a checkpoint they set up in the area.

 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights covered the inciting incident, reporting that “clashes erupted” between Jaysh al-Islam and Faylaq al-Rahman in Jisreen, after which the latter group deployed heavily in the town.

 

According to Faylaq al-Rahman, the “confusion” in the eastern Ghouta area was resolved amicably following the intervention of notables from Jisreen.

 

Jaysh al-Islam, for its part, issued a statement on the controversy, calling on Faylaq al-Rahman to “practice self-restraint.”

 

The Islamist group also claimed that one of its headquarters in Jisreen was seized by Faylaq al-Rahman members while two of its fighters were detained.

 

Jaysh al-Islam called on Faylaq al-Rahman leader Abd al-Nasr Shmeir to work to restore relations between the two rebel groups, saying that ties had deteriorated after a group of Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union fighters merged with Faylaq al-Rahman in February 2016.

 

Following their incorporation into Faylaq al-Rhman, Ajnad al-Sham accused Jaysh al-Islam of trying to sabotage the move.

 

Ties between Faylaq al-Rahman and Jaysh al-Islam--both of which are part of the Unified Military Command of Eastern Ghouta—have deteriorated since elements of Ajnad al-Sham joined the larger rebel force.

 

Although the two rebel factions fight side-by-side against the regime, members of Faylaq al-Rahman and Jaysh al-Islam have engaged in firefights with each other on two occasions in recent weeks in the Faylaq al-Rahman stronghold of Zamalka in the eastern outskirts of Damascus

 

Following the latest fierce clash on March 30, Faylaq al-Rahman accused Jaysh al-Islam of operating an assassination cell, a charge strenuously denied by the Islamist group.

 

Faylaq al-Rahman was formed in November 2013, bringing together a number of Free Syrian Army-affiliated units under the command of Abd al-Nasr Shmeir, a defected Syrian army officer who is now one of the top rebel leaders in eastern Ghouta.

 

The Institute for the Study of War classifies Faylaq al-Rahman as one of the only twelve “powerbroker” groups or factions powerful enough to determine “the success of military operations against either the Syrian regime or ISIS.” Jaysh al-Islam is the only other rebel faction in eastern Ghouta listed by the ISW as a “powerbroker.”

 

NOW's English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Amin Nasr translated the Arabic-language source material.

Jaysh al-Islam fighters. (image via Jaishalislam.com)

Jaysh al-Islam, for its part, issued a statement on the controversy, calling on Faylaq al-Rahman to “practice self-restraint.”