Heavy Blow Administered to Assad’s Foes – Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
(dailyalert.org, Sept. 12, 2014)
Ahrar al-Sham is a 10-20,000-strong group of jihadist-Salafi fighters which constitutes the main component of the “Islamic Front” fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad. The group was considered to be second in strength to the Islamic State.
On Sep. 9, Ahrar al-Sham was dealt a major blow in what appears to have been a suicide attack that cost the lives of at least 46 (and perhaps as many as 70) top military officers and political leading figures of the group.
In January 2013 the group claimed to operate 83 units across Syria, including in the cities of Damascus and Aleppo.
Unlike the Islamic State, Ahrar al-Sham seeks a state run on Islamic principles that would also protect women’s rights, as well as ethnic and religious minorities.
Four of the main leaders were killed in the attack: Hassan Abud, founder and emir of the movement, and head of the political department of the Islamic Front; Abu Talha al Ghab, military chief; Abu Ayman Ram Hamdan, former head of the Badr brigade and responsible for planning; and Abu Abdel Malek al Shari, its religious leader.
The attack was a blow to a key element that could have rallied to the American cause.
The writer was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence.