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Albin Szakola

Ahrar al-Sham official warns FSA rebels in south Syria

Abu Azzam al-Ansari indirectly accused the Southern Front coalition of being "traitors."

Ahrar al-Sham

BEIRUT – An official in the powerful Islamist Ahrar al-Sham organization has issued a fiery warning to Free Syrian Army-affiliated rebels in southern Syria, saying they were culpable for the regime's recent advances into the besieged western Damascus suburb of Darayya.

"Every drop of blood spilled in Darayya is the responsibility of the leaders of Southern Front factions," Abu Azzam al-Ansari wrote Tuesday on Twitter.

"Either repent and fight today, or the mujahideen of Houran [region of southern Syria] will erupt against [the Southern Front coalition] in order not to share in their sin," he added.

Ansari's comments come a day after pro-Assad forces breached rebel defensive lines in Darayya, sparking fears that the town would fall to the regime.

An official in Liwa Shuhada al-Islam—the largest opposition faction in the besieged Damascus town which has borne the brunt of heavy regime bombardment—told Turkey's Anadolu news that "the incursion, which is backed by [pro-regime] militias, is massive."

Situated near the Mezzeh Airbase, which lies less than three kilometers to the north, Darayya occupies a a strategically important location. It is also close to the Republican Palace, the Republican Guard's headquarters and the Syrian Army's crack Fourth Armored Division base.

Ahrar al-Sham's Ansari continued his diatribe against the Southern Front in a series of subsequent tweets, indirectly accusing the coalition's factions of being "traitors."

"Those who receive support and stop fighting are traitors and collaborators," he said in an implicit reference to the FSA coalition's ties to the Western-backed Military Operations Center (MOC) based in Amman.

Reports emerged in January 2016 that the MOC ordered the Southern Front to halt its operations against the Syrian regime in the Daraa province in order to focus its fight on ISIS-affiliated groups in the region.

The Southern Front has failed to notch any significant military successes since the early summer of 2015, after which its major offensive on the provincial capital Daraa ground to a halt.

Ahrar al-Sham voiced pessimism over the fate of Darayya, saying that "maybe the day when we can save [the town] has passed," but added that rebels in southern Syria still have a chance to serve the rebel cause.

"The Houran [region of southern Syria] that previously sparked the revolution will be the one that saves it today," he wrote.​

 

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

Ahrar al-Sham's Abu Azzam al-Ansari. (YouTube)

Those who receive support and stop fighting are traitors and collaborators.