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FSA moves against
Nusra in south Syria

A series of moderate fighting units belonging to the ascendant Southern Front coalition have cut all ties with the Al-Nusra Front.

FSA rebel. (AFP/Phil Moore)

BEIRUT – In a surprise move, the Free Syrian Army-affiliated Southern Front rebels cut ties with Al-Nusra Front two weeks after both sides moved in on the Nasib border crossing with Jordan.

 

“[We] reject any military or [ideological] cooperation or rapprochement with the Al-Nusra Front or any takfiri [ideology] adopted by any group among the ranks of the Syrian rebels,” a joint statement issued by groups under the Southern Front’s command said Monday.

 

“[We] consider the Southern Front the only military [entity] representing the Syrian revolution in southern Syria.”

 

The statement was endorsed by the FSA’s First Army, the Swords of al-Sham Brigades, the Dawn of Islam Division, the Yarmouk Brigade and the 1st Brigade, all moderate fighting units that have reportedly received US-manufactured anti-tank weaponry.

 

Dubai-based Al Aan television reported Tuesday that the move “came suddenly without any […] harsh disputes between the factions and the Al-Nusra Front.”

 

However, the network brought up that Nusra and the Southern Front have butted heads in the Daraa al-Balad district of the provincial capital Daraa as well as the Nasib border crossing.

 

The Southern Front in recent weeks has notched a series of successes against pro-regime forces and has seized not only the town of Bosra al-Sham and the Nasib border crossing but also launched an offensive to aiming for a major regime base on the highway leading to Damascus.

 

Daraa al-Balad fight

 

Conflicting reports emerged over the weekend regarding an armed clash between the FSA’s 18 March Division and Nusra fighters in Daraa al-Balad.

 

The activist Shaam News Network said that fierce clashes had raged in the area between the FSA unit and Nusra after the Islamist group arrested a member of the 18 March Division.

 

However, the pro-opposition Al-Etihad press denied reports of heavy clashes, saying instead that an Al-Nusra Front member had attempted to target a base belonging to the 18 March Divisions Tawhid Janub Brigade in Daraa al-Balad.

 

The Al-Nusra fighter threw a grenade at the door of the headquarters by [parked] trucks, causing no injuries after which he was arrested, the report said.

 

Al-Etihad added that the grenade incident came after Al-Nusra arrested a Tawhid Janub Brigade member for “pledging allegiance to ISIS.”

 

Nasib border crossing

 

Tension has also ratcheted between Nusra and the FSA at the Nasib border crossing, which both sides took control of from the regime in the beginning of April.

 

The Southern Front said that Nusra did not participate in the day-long battle while the Al-Qaeda linked group for its part claimed to have captured the crossing, which was the regime’s last border point with Jordan.

 

As Nusra took drivers hostage and reportedly took part in a looting spree in the customs area of the crossing, the Southern Front demanded that Nusra abandon its positions in the area.

 

Nusra withdrew from the crossing on April 4, but maintained its fighters in the shared zone between both countries’ borders before fully withdrawing from the area in full a week later.

The FSA-affiliated Southern Front has announced it will not cooperate with Nusra. (AFP/Phil Moore)

[We] consider the Southern Front the only military [entity] representing the Syrian revolution in southern Syria.