Free Idlib Army
The Free Idlib Army (Arabic: جيش إدلب الحر Jaysh ‘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.
|Free Idlib Army|
جيش إدلب الحرParticipant in the Syrian Civil War
|Active||19 September 2016 – present|
|Leaders||Top commanders, since July 2017:|
|Headquarters||Maarat al-Nu'man and Kafr Nabl|
|Area of operations||Northwestern Syria|
|Part of||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.
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.
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. However an opposition source stated that the Free Idlib Army will not closely cooperate with Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. 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. The commander aims for an eventual full merger between the 3 groups after forming a new command structure.
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.
On 25 December 2016, 2 FIA commanders were shot and killed in Maarat. Opposition activists accused Jund al-Aqsa of conducting the assassination. 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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- US-backed rebels defect to al-Qaeda branch in Syria Al Masdar News, 5 October 2016
- "Two Free Syrian Army leaders assassinated in Idlib". Al-Masdar News. 25 December 2016.
- "EXCLUSIVE: Commander In Soqor Al-Jabal: Fatih Al-Sham Detained Our Soldiers For Joining Euphrates Shield". Qasioun. 26 December 2016.
- @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.
- ""Band 13" denies my News Anagha about "Idlib Free Army"". Baladi News Network. 11 April 2017.
- "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.