Open main menu

The Levant Front (Arabic: الجبهة الشامية‎, Jabhat al-Shamiyah, also translated as the Sham Front or the Levantine Front)[23] is a Syrian rebel group based around Aleppo involved in the Syrian Civil War.[24] It was formed in December 2014.

Levant Front
الجبهة الشامية
Jabhat al-Shamiyah
Participant in the Syrian Civil War
Levant Front.png
Active25 December 2014[1]–18 April 2015;
18 June 2015–present
IdeologySunni Islamism[1]Islamic democracy[1] (depending on the member group)
Group(s)
Leaders
  • Abu Amr (emir)[10][11]
  • Colonel Muhammad al-Ahmad (spokesman)[12]
  • Muhammad Abu Ibrahim (military commander)[13]
  • Abu Ahmad al-Jazrawi[14]
HeadquartersAzaz, Aleppo Governorate, Syria
Area of operationsAleppo Governorate, Syria
Size3,000[15] (December 2016, Russian military claim)
Part ofFatah Halab[16]
Jaysh Halab[17][18]
Mare' Operations Room[19]
Hawar Kilis Operations Room
Free Syrian Army[20]
Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army
Allies Turkey
 United States
 United Arab Emirates (Covertly)
 Netherlands (2015-2018)
Sham Legion
Official Flag of Syrian Turkmen.jpg Syrian Turkmen Brigades (sometimes)
Syrian opposition Other FSA groups in northern Aleppo
Opponent(s) Syria
Syrian Democratic Forces
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant[21]
Tahrir al-Sham
Liwa Ahfad Saladin
Ahrar al-Sharqiya
Hazzm Movement (March 2015)
Battles and war(s)Syrian Civil War

The Netherlands public prosecutor has declared it to be a terrorist organisation in 2018, despite the Dutch government having earlier provided it with support.[25][26]

IdeologyEdit

The Levant Front's membership includes the major Sunni Islamist groups operating in northern Syria, representing a spectrum of ideologies from hardline Salafism to apolitical factions linked to the Free Syrian Army.[1] The group imposes Sharia law[citation needed] where murder and apostasy in Islam are punishable by death.[citation needed] In Aleppo, media activists accusing the Levant Front of corruption and otherwise criticizing the group have received threats and faced reprisal attacks.[citation needed]

HistoryEdit

Initial formationEdit

Following months of negotiations in Turkey and northern Syria between the Islamic Front (mainly the al-Tawhid Brigade), the Army of Mujahideen, the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement, the Fastaqim Union, Liwa Ahrar Souriya and the Authenticity and Development Front, on 25 December 2014, the factions announced that they combined their forces into a joint command called the Levant Front.[1][27] The US-backed Hazzm Movement joined the coalition on 30 January 2015,[28] and announced its dissolution and merger with into other Levant Front factions on 1 March 2015.[29]

On 20 February 2015, the Levant Front successfully forced Syrian Army forces to retreat from rural towns in Aleppo;[30] during the clashes group claimed to have killed 300 Syrian soldiers and captured 110.[31] During the same month, the group signed an agreement with the YPG and installed Sharia courts in Sheikh Maqsood and Afrin.[32]

Dissolution and reestablishment in 2015Edit

On 18 April 2015, the Levant Front announced its dissolution as an alliance, however it stated that the member factions would continue to coordinate with each other militarily. Reasons behind the split were believed to include a lack of coordination between the groups and increasing defections of its members to other factions.[33][34] Following its end as a single unified group, it continued to act as a joint operations room.[35]

On 26 April 2015, along with other major Aleppo based groups, the Levant Front established the Fatah Halab joint operations room.[16][36]

Between May and June 2015, the Trotskyist Leon Sedov Brigade joined the Levant Front. In June 2016, it largely separated from the group, before completely leaving in October 2016.[37]

The group announced its reactivation on 18 June. Its new leader is Abu Amr, who was an Ahrar ash-Sham commander.[10][11] On 29 June, the Levant Front released their charter.[38]

Since its reactivation on 18 June, the Levant Front operates as a unified group with former members acting as independent groups. Various groups have joined and left the group since its reactivation, such as Abu Amara Battalions and the Thuwar al-Sham Battalions.[39]

SDF offensive against the Levant FrontEdit

On 16 November 2015, the Syrian Democratic Forces announced the formation of its branch in the Aleppo and Idlib governorates. The YPG, YPJ, and the Army of Revolutionaries were the founding members of the coalition.[40] Subsequently, clashes erupted between the SDF and the Levant Front, comprising Ahrar al-Sham, the al-Nusra Front, and the Mare' Operations Room.[14]

On 10 February 2016, the SDF successfully drove out the Levant Front from the Menagh Military Airbase. After days of fierce clashes, the YPG and the Army of Revolutionaries captured a series of villages before reaching and capturing the airbase and the town of Menagh from the Levant Front. According to sources quoted by Reuters, the SDF were supported by Russian airstrikes. The SDF initiated this offensive following the recent Syrian Army offensive on rebel forces in Aleppo supported by Russian airstrikes. The SDF advanced from the Afrin Canton, the westernmost part of Rojava, which had been attacked multiple times by Islamist groups such as the al-Nusra Front. The aim was to prevent attacks on Afrin canton and close the Turkish border to these various Islamist groups.[41][42][43]

Turkish intervention and rebel infightingEdit

On 24 August 2016, Turkey launched a large-scale military campaign in the northern Aleppo Governorate against both ISIL and the SDF. The Levant Front's northern branch was one of the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army factions (TFSA) that participated in the operation, which captured Jarabulus, al-Bab, and dozens of other towns in northern Aleppo.[13]

On 24 January 2017, the al-Nusra Front backed by Nour al-Din al-Zenki attacked the Army of Mujahideen and the Levant Front west of Aleppo, defeating both. The former two groups then merged with several other Islamist factions and declared the formation of Tahrir al-Sham.[44] The Levant Front's western Aleppo branch and several other former Levant Front groups, such as the Army of Mujahideen and the Fastaqim Union, joined Ahrar al-Sham.[45]

In July 2017, the Levant Front's northern branch attacked its former ally and co-TFSA group, the Descendants of Saladin Brigade, kidnapping its leader and raiding its bases with other TFSA units. This followed the Descendants of Saladin Brigade's declaration that it would not take part in a planned Turkish-led offensive against Afrin Canton, which is ruled by the secular, Kurdish-dominated PYD. The Levant Front reportedly justified this operation by claiming that the Descendants of Saladin Brigade's leader Mahmoud Khallo was an al-Qaeda member and allied to the PYD; according to Khallo, the Levant Front tortured him until he was handed over to the Turkish security forces.[46]

Foreign supportEdit

The government of the Netherlands provided materials to the Levant Front as part of a program of non-lethal assistance for 22 rebel groups in Syria from 2015 to 2018. In September 2018, the Dutch public prosecution department declared the Levant Front to be a "criminal organisation of terrorist intent", describing it as a "salafist and jihadistic" group that "strives for the setting up of the caliphate".[25][26]

In an interview an official from the group stated that the Levant Front takes ISIL members and their families captive and will sell them to foreign governments and intelligence agencies for revenue, among the nations listed included the United States and United Arab Emirates, rewards for captured ISIL members are over 10 million USD and the transactions are arranged by brokers and Turkish officials.[47]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e "The Levant Front: Can Aleppo's Rebels Unite?". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 26 December 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  2. ^ "Hassan Ridha on Twitter".
  3. ^ "Hassan Ridha on Twitter". Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  4. ^ Barić, Joško (8 June 2017). "Syrian War Daily – 8th of June 2017".
  5. ^ "«Brigade Conquest» join the «Front Sham» north of Aleppo (statement)". Qasioun News Agency. 8 March 2017.
  6. ^ ""لواء الفتح" يعلن انضمامه لـ"الجبهة الشامية" في حلب" [The "Fatah Brigade" announces that it joins the Levant Front in Aleppo]. SMART News Agency. 8 March 2017. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  7. ^ Times, Military. "Turkish tanks and spec ops attack Islamic State forces in Syria".
  8. ^ https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DL3qZHuXkAEf5Bh.jpg
  9. ^ "لواء منبج (@lewaamanbej) - Twitter". Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  10. ^ a b "Charles Lister on Twitter". Twitter.
  11. ^ a b "Charles Lister on Twitter". Twitter.
  12. ^ Ahmad Zakariyah (16 March 2017). "FSA Commanders confirm the Syrian revolution will continue until achieving its goals". RFS Media Office.
  13. ^ a b "Turkey-backed rebels aim for key ISIS-held town". Now News. 25 August 2016.
  14. ^ a b John Davison and Suleiman Al-Khalidi (6 December 2015). "Clashes between Syrian fighters pose challenge for Turkey, U.S." Reuters.
  15. ^ "List of armed formations, which joined the ceasefire in the Syrian Arab Republic on December 30, 2016". Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation. 30 December 2016.
  16. ^ a b "The biggest rebel factions in Aleppo just formed coalition "Operation Conquest of Aleppo"". reddit.
  17. ^ "Participating groups in Halab Aleppo, the coalition organized to fight against YPG/SDF : syriancivilwar". reddit. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  18. ^ "Twitter". Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  19. ^ https://i.imgur.com/HGjO9PP.png
  20. ^ "Free Syrian Army – Statement". RFS Media Office. 22 March 2016.
  21. ^ a b "Aleppo's rebels brace for IS assault". Al-Monitor. 16 April 2015. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  22. ^ "Scores killed as opposition fighters launched new formation in Syria's Aleppo". ARA News. 29 December 2014. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  23. ^ "Syrian rebel groups in Aleppo enter alliance: monitoring group". Reuters. 26 December 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  24. ^ "KingQajar comments on [ARABIC] Jabhat al-Shamiyah has announced its official dissolution". Reddit.
  25. ^ a b "Dutch funded 'jihadist' group in Syria, terror trial may now falter". Dutch News. 11 September 2018. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  26. ^ a b Holdert, Milena; Dahhan, Ghassan (10 September 2018). "Nederland steunde 'terreurbeweging' in Syrië". Nieuwsuur. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  27. ^ Arab Newspaper article from Dec 25, 2014 including a picture of the leaders of the Levant Front: الجبهة الشامية تجمع ثوار حلب مع بداية 2015, sirajpress.com
  28. ^ "Hazem Movement joins al- Jabha al- Shameyyah". SOHR. 30 January 2015.
  29. ^ "U.S.-backed Syria rebel group dissolves itself after losses". Reuters Media. 1 March 2015. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
  30. ^ "قائد في "حزب الله": قوات النظام ارتكبت مجزرة بحلب والضباط تركونا لوحدنا". alankabout.com. Archived from the original on 2015-03-25.
  31. ^ حلب - أنس الكردي. "العربي الجديد - حلب: المعارضة السورية تحرز تقدماً والنظام يستدعي مقاتلين أجانب". alaraby.
  32. ^ Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi (21 March 2015). "The Administration of the Local Council in Azaz". Syria Comment.
  33. ^ "بعد 3 أشهر من تشكيلها .."الجبهة الشامية" بحلب تحلّ نفسها". El Dorar. 19 April 2015. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  34. ^ "Key Islamist group Shamiya Front resolves itself: source". Zaman al-Wasl. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  35. ^ "Chester_T_Molester comments on Jabhat al-Shamiya Operations Room Announces New Offensive on Al-Rashidin, Aleppo". reddit.
  36. ^ "Fateh Haleb Coalition Member Organizations List : syriancivilwar". reddit.
  37. ^ Cody Roche (5 December 2017). "The Trotskyist León Sedov Brigade in the Syrian Revolution". Medium.
  38. ^ "Ibn Nabih on Twitter". Twitter.
  39. ^ "Syrian Civil War factions". Google Docs. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  40. ^ Osama Abu Zeid; Maria Nelson (18 November 2015). "15 opposition brigades in Idlib, Aleppo join SDF forces". Syria:direct.
  41. ^ "YPG Kurds successfully overrun former Syrian airbase". Rudaw. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  42. ^ News, ANF. "YPG takes control of Menagh Military Airbase and Minîh village". ANF News.
  43. ^ "Kurds, allies seize most of key air base in north Syria: monitor". Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  44. ^ Haytham Mouzahem (17 February 2017). "Will major opposition groups face off in Syria?". Al-Monitor.
  45. ^ "Syrian Rebellion Obs on Twitter".
  46. ^ Mohammad Abdulssattar Ibrahim; Maria Nelso (23 August 2017). "'Afrin is a red line': Kurdish FSA commander loses his faction after refusing to fight". Syria:direct. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  47. ^ https://www.ft.com/content/c7a7d804-d357-11e6-b06b-680c49b4b4c0