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The Free Idlib Army (Arabic: جيش إدلب الحرJaysh ‘Idlib al-Ḥarr) is a Syrian rebel coalition consisting of 3 armed groups from northwestern Syria affiliated with the Free Syrian Army: the 13th Division, the Northern Division, and the Mountain Hawks Brigade.[7]

Free Idlib Army
جيش إدلب الحر
Participant in the Syrian Civil War
New Logo of the Free Idlib Army.svg
Active19 September 2016 – present
IdeologySyrian nationalism[1]
LeadersTop commanders, since July 2017:[3]
  • Lt. Col. Suhaib Leoush (overall commander)
  • Capt. Naji Mustafa (deputy commander)
  • Capt. Dumar Qanatri (chief of staff)

Other commanders:

  • Col. Afif Suleiman (former Idlib Military Council chief)[4]
  • Lt. Col. Nasha'at Haj Ahmad (Mountain Hawks Brigade)[5]
  • Lt. Col. Ahmed al-Saud (13th Division)[6]


  • Capt. Hassan Haj Ali (Mountain Hawks Brigade and overall commander, until July 2017)[7]
  • Col. Ali al-Samahi  (chief of staff, assassinated in April 2017)[8]
  • 1st Lt. Mohamed Khalid Bayoush (Northern Division and alternate deputy commander, until July 2017)[9]
  • Lt. Col. Fares Bayoush (former Northern Division and deputy commander, resigned in January 2017)[10][4]
  • Amin Haj Ali  (field commander, killed in March 2019)[11][12]
HeadquartersMaarat al-Nu'man and Kafr Nabl
Area of operationsNorthwestern Syria
  • 6,000 fighters (including 200 officers, late 2016)[13][14]
Part ofSyrian opposition Free Syrian Army Fatah Halab (2016)
Battles and war(s)Syrian Civil War



The Free Idlib Army is known for possessing several new BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launchers which they used to bombard Syrian Army positions in southern Aleppo. In 2016, one of the group's commanders, Fares Bayoush, confirmed that the rocket systems were newly supplied from foreign sponsors.[16]


Initial logo of the Free Idlib Army.

On 25 August 2016, the commander of the Northern Division, Lieutenant Colonel Fares Bayoush announced that talks are made in Idlib on the unification of the three FSA-affiliated rebel groups in northwestern Syria. He stated that eventually the merger will be complete and the three component groups will dissolve into the main faction.[17]

At it establishment on 19 September 2016, the coalition aims to prioritise fighting the Syrian government and establish relations and coordinate with the Salafist factions of the Army of Conquest, including Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, al-Qaeda's renamed al-Nusra Front.[6] However an opposition source stated that the Free Idlib Army will not closely cooperate with Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.[4] Just a day before, the Mountain Hawks Brigade withdrew from the front against ISIL near Jarabulus and Azaz in order to head to southern Aleppo and Idlib.[18] The commander aims for an eventual full merger between the 3 groups after forming a new command structure.[13]

On 23 September Russian warplanes bombed a cave in Taybat al-Imam, killing 22 fighters from the Free Idlib Army.[14]

In early October a number of Mountain Hawks Brigade fighters defected to join Jabhat Fateh al-Sham due to several disagreements, mainly due to the established of the Free Idlib Army.[19]

In November, the deputy commanding general of the Free Idlib Army, first lieutenant Mohammed Khaled Bayoush, came under fire from machine guns fired by unknown assailants while in his car near the town of Kafr Nabl. The commander escaped without injury.[9]

On 25 December 2016, 2 FIA commanders were shot and killed in Maarat. Opposition activists accused Jund al-Aqsa of conducting the assassination.[20] The next day, the al-Nusra Front raided houses throughout Idlib and captured 16 FIA fighters from the Mountain Hawks Brigade. The rebels were captured on charges of participating in the Turkish military intervention in Syria.[21]

On 23 January 2017, the 13th Division of the FIA repelled an al-Nusra advance toward Maarat al-Nu'man.[22]

On 25 January 2017, the groups of fighters which left the Mountain Hawks Brigade in September 2016 for Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, returned, along with their leader, Lt. Col. Nasha'at Haj Ahmad.[5]

On 31 January 2017, Lt. Col. Fares Bayoush resigned from his positions in the Northern Division and the Free Idlib Army, citing "Black Standards" in Idlib.[10]

On 5 April 2017, a vehicle carrying Lt. Col. Ahmed al-Saud of the 13th Division and Colonel Ali al-Samahi, chief of staff of the Free Idlib Army, came under fire from Tahrir al-Sham fighters at a checkpoint near Khan al-Subul, which was under complete control of HTS. Al-Samahi and another fighter was killed in the shootout while al-Saud was wounded and was transferred to Turkey for treatment.[8]

As a result of internal disputes between the 13th Division and the other factions in the Free Idlib Army, some members of the former reportedly released a statement on 11 April which claimed that the 13th Division will no longer be part of the Free Idlib Army and it will instead join the "central operations room" led by Col. Fadlallah al-Haji of the Sham Legion. This was denied by Lt. Col. Ahmed al-Assad, the overall commander of the 13th Division, who called the statement a "false report". Al-Saud called on all the member groups of the FIA to integrate under one organization.[23]

On 11 July 2017, the Free Idlib Army appointed new commanders: Lt. Col. Suhaib Leoush (overall commander, replaced Capt. Hassan Haj Ali), Capt. Naji Mustafa (deputy commander, replaced 1st Lt. Muhammad Bayoush), and Capt. Dumar Qanatri (chief of staff, replaced Col. Ali Samahi, who was killed in April).[3]

In May 2018, along with 10 other rebel groups in northwestern Syria, the Free Idlib Army formed the National Front for Liberation, which was officially announced on 28 May. Lt. Col. Suhaib Leoush was appointed as the formation's deputy commander.[15]

On 7 March 2019, Amin Haj Ali, a field commander of the free Idlib Army, was killed by an IED in southern Idlib.[11][12]

The unit subsequently fought alongside other rebel factions against the government's Northwestern Syria offensive from April 2019.[24]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Abdul Rahman al-Masri (3 May 2017). "Analysis: The Free Idlib Army's Role in the U.S. Battle Against Al-Qaida in Syria". Syria Deeply.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "Free Idlib Army is making adjustments at the level of the chief of staff". Al-Etihad Press. 11 July 2017.
  4. ^ a b c "Syria rebels form Free Idlib Army". Now News. 23 September 2016.
  5. ^ a b "جيش إدلب الحر (@free_idleb_army) - Twitter".
  6. ^ a b "Free Idlib Army is Close to Form … Learn its main factions". El-Dorar. 20 September 2016.
  7. ^ a b "New rebel group formed in Idlib". Al-Masdar News. 20 September 2016.
  8. ^ a b "Activists: Sham Liberation Army assassinated a senior commander of Idlib Free (Photos)". Arabi 21. 5 April 2017.
  9. ^ a b "Najat leader of the free Idlib Jaish Albyosh an assassination attempt Brive Idlib". Al-Etihad Press. 23 November 2016.
  10. ^ a b "The resignation of a leader of the «army Idlib free» to face the «black banners of cross-border»". Al-Hayat. 2 February 2017.
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^ a b
  13. ^ a b "FSA in Idlib… A new launch towards unified military action". RFS Media Office. 20 September 2016.
  14. ^ a b "Russian raid kills 22 fighters from the Free Army in Hama". Feda News. 24 September 2016.
  15. ^ a b "11 FSA Factions in New Command in of "National Front Liberation"". Syria Call. 28 May 2018.
  16. ^ "Syrian rebels get new rockets from foreign states: commander". Reuters. 28 September 2016.
  17. ^ "Lieutenant-colonel Faris Bayoush to RFS: We Have to Be One Force Against Assad". RFS Media Office. 25 August 2016.
  18. ^ "Brigade Mountain Hawks stopped work in northern Syria until further notice". All4Syria. 18 September 2016.
  19. ^ US-backed rebels defect to al-Qaeda branch in Syria Al Masdar News, 5 October 2016
  20. ^ "Two Free Syrian Army leaders assassinated in Idlib". Al-Masdar News. 25 December 2016.
  21. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: Commander In Soqor Al-Jabal: Fatih Al-Sham Detained Our Soldiers For Joining Euphrates Shield". Qasioun. 26 December 2016.
  22. ^ @Dalatrm (23 January 2017). "Confirmed 13th Div of free idlib army checks JFS vanguard advance vs MaaratNuman, some prisoners taken. Night Pro-FSA protests were raging" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  23. ^ ""Band 13" denies my News Anagha about "Idlib Free Army"". Baladi News Network. 11 April 2017.
  24. ^ "ريف حماة: مليشيات النظام مشغولة بالتعفيش!" [Hama countryside: the regime's militias are busy with Altafish!]. Almodon (in Arabic). 17 May 2019. Retrieved 11 August 2018.

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