A number of Syrian civilians were killed or wounded in clashes that erupted on Wednesday (February 21st) between Tahrir al-Sham and a number of armed factions in northern rural Idlib and western rural Aleppo, a local activist said.
The clashes culminated in the factions opposing Tahrir al-Sham capturing several of the extremist alliance's key positions, activist Haisam al-Idlibi told Diyaruna.
Tensions in rural Idlib and Aleppo provinces escalated into fierce battles between a number of armed factions, led by the newly formed Syria Liberation Front and Suqur al-Sham on one side, and Tahrir al-Sham on the other, he said.
The Syria Liberation Front (Hayaat Tahrir Syria) is an umbrella group that includes in its ranks the Nureddine al-Zinki and Ahrar al-Sham movements.
"The fighting broke out at dawn Wednesday, continued throughout the day and is still under way in a number of villages and towns in Idlib and Aleppo," al-Idlibi said.
Preliminary information indicates that Tahrir al-Sham has pulled back and withdrawn from a number of these communities and from other key positions.
Al-Idlibi said dozens were detained in reciprocal abductions between the two sides, as each stepped up their mobilisation and incitement via their media.
Fierce fighting continues
Tahrir al-Sham is accusing the Nureddine al-Zinki of being behind the assassination of a number of its leaders, notably al-Qaeda veteran Abu Ayman al-Masri, who was killed last week.
Attention is now focused on fierce battles taking place in the cities of Maarat al-Numan and Muhambal, al-Idlibi said.
The Syria Liberation Front has already captured the cities of Ariha, Wadi Deif and al-Atarib, and the towns al-Mastumah, Batabo, Qasabiyeh, Kafer Haya, Shnan, Farkia, al-Maghara, Benin, Deir Sunbul, Mantaf, Maarzaf, Maarbalit, al-Rami, Tramla and Urum al-Joz, he said.
"Even though a number of civilians have been killed or wounded in the fighting, the local population has been generally supportive of the battles, in the hope that they will rid them of Tahrir al-Sham’s rule," he added.
The alliance has made itself unpopular due to its arbitrary decisions and the high taxes it was trying to impose on civilians in Idlib and its rural areas, he said.
Dozens were killed and wounded on both sides, he added, as the clashes broke out in areas where the fighting was face-to-face, due to the overlap in areas of control.