Al-Qaida Affiliate in Syria Calls for Power-Sharing and Signals Sharia Law in Idlib
Abu Mohammed al-Jolani, chief of Syria’s al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra, said his group “does not want to monopolize rule over Idlib city,” but indicated that the city would be ruled according to Sharia law, Agence France-Presse reports. “We salute the people of Idlib and their stand with their sons, the mujahideen … and God willing they will enjoy the justice of Sharia, which will preserve their religion and their blood,” Jolani said in an audio recording posted on Jabhat al-Nusra-affiliated online media. Jolani also stressed the importance of unity among groups that captured Idlib and urged “quickly establishing a religious court to judge over people and to end disputes.” Jolani called on the Islamist groups to set aside differences and join forces “for the victory of Islam and Muslims.”
“Maintaining control over the city is harder than taking it over … because our enemies and critics are betting on our disputes, our poor behavior and our failure,” he said.
His speech came four days after Jabhat al-Nusra and other groups including Ahrah al-Sham took control of Idlib after four days of fighting with government forces.
If the insurgents are able to retain their hold on Idlib, it would be the second provincial capital lost by President Assad’s forces in the four-year conflict, after the loss of Raqqa two years ago, which is now controlled by the Islamic State. Jabhat al-Nusra has slowly been consolidating its influence and expanding in the northwestern corner of Syria, where it ousted at least two Western-backed opposition groups in recent months. Jolani said the Idlib takeover showed that seeking the support of the West and regional powers was an “illusion”. He promised Idlib’s residents that they would be treated well by his fighters and other Islamist factions, and called for the creation of a “supervisory council” from various factions “to answer the needs of the people.” In July, Jolani announced that Jabhat al-Nusra sought the establishment of an “emirate” in Syria that would rival ISIS’s “caliphate.” In his latest message, he said the authority of “jihadists and emirs (local rulers) does not come from scaring the people, but in protecting them, defeating their oppressor and defending the weak.”
Syrian Rebel Groups Seize Control Over Syria-Jordan Border
Jordan said it had temporarily closed its border crossing with Syria as a precautionary measure due to escalating violence on the other side of the frontier, Reuters reports.
The closure comes after rebels backed by Syria’s al-Qaida affiliate seized control Wednesday of the last border crossing with Jordan that had been under regime control.
“Armed groups, joined today by al-Qaida affiliate Al-Nusra Front, took over the Nasib border point from regime soldiers on the Syrian side of the frontier,” said the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. He added that the takeover meant there was “no longer a regime presence on the border with Jordan.” A Jordanian official who requested anonymity told Reuters that authorities closed the crossing after several mortar rounds fell on Tuesday into an empty yard on the Jordanian side of the crossing. The Nasib crossing leads to Syria’s southern province of Deraa, a vital battleground, and is the only official border crossing between Syria and Jordan.
The crossing serves as a major transit route for transportation of goods between Turkey and the Gulf, though traffic through the border crossing has fallen dramatically from pre-conflict levels.
“Sanctions-hit Damascus relies on the crossing to get essential goods from Jordanian businesses. It also exports some agricultural and textile goods that provide it with foreign currency,” Reuters writes. Rebel groups control larges stretches of territory in southern Syria and have expanded their control over the area in recent weeks. Last week they seized full control of the ancient town of Bosra al-Sham, ousting pro-regime forces from the area after days of heavy fighting.
ISIS Seizes Control Over Parts of Yarmouk Refugee Camp in Damascus
Islamic State militants have seized control over large parts of the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk in Damascus, the BBC reports, citing the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Palestinian officials. Clashes erupted between the militants and groups inside the camp, which is home to over 18,000 Palestinian refugees.
ISIS controls large swathes of territory in eastern Syria, however this is the first time that the group has launched a major attack near the heart of Syria’s capital of Damascus.
Residents of Yarmouk told the BBC that members of Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis, a group formed by Palestinian militiamen opposed to the Syrian government, were leading the battle against the ISIS militants, as well as some Free Syrian Army fighters, after reports suggest that the group stormed into the southern side of Yarmouk camp. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said in a statement that the fighting would place Yarmouk’s civilians, “at extreme risk of death, serious injury, trauma and displacement.” Syria’s Yarmouk refugee camp, on the outskirts of Damascus, has been besieged by fighting between Syrian government forces and rebel forces since 2012. Thousands of Palestinian refugees are trapped inside the camp, facing starvation, malnutrition, disease and inadequate access to clean water and electricity.
“The attack comes days before a deal to ease the humanitarian situation for civilians in the camp was set to come into operation,” the BBC writes.
- Agence France-Presse: Rebels Seize Syria-Jordan Border as IS Storms Damascus
- The Wall Street Journal: Syrian Opposition Tries to Govern Newly Won Idlib City
- BBC: Nine Britons Held on Turkey-Syria Border
- The Economist: Syria’s Civil War: Assad on the Back Foot
- The Daily Star: Syria Slashes Imports to Save Dwindling Foreign Reserves
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