Islamic Front (Syria)
Participant in the Syrian civil war
Official logo of the Islamic Front
|Active||22 November 2013–present|
|Leaders||Ahmed Abu Issa|
|Strength||40,000-60,000 (Jan. 2014)|
|Opponents|| Syrian Armed Forces
National Defense Force
People's Protection Units (YPG)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
The Islamic Front (Arabic: الجبهة الإسلامية, al-Jabhat al-Islāmiyyah) is a merger of seven rebel groups involved in the Syrian civil war that was announced on 22 November 2013. An anonymous spokesman for the group has stated that it will not have ties with the Syrian National Coalition, though a member of the political bureau of the group, Ahmad Musa, has stated that he hopes for recognition from the Syrian National Council in cooperation for what he suggested "the Syrian people want. They want a revolution and not politics and foreign agendas." The group is widely seen as backed and armed by Saudi Arabia.
On 22 November, seven Islamist groups agreed to a pact that would dissolve the groups individually and lead to the formation of the Islamic Front. The groups are:
- Aleppo's largest opposition fighting force Liwa al-Tawhid (formerly part of the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front)
- Salafist Ahrar al-Sham (formerly part of the Syrian Islamic Front)
- Homs-based Liwa al-Haqq (formerly part of Syrian Islamic Front)
- Idlib-based Suqour al-Sham (formerly part of the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front)
- Damascus-based Jaysh al-Islam (formerly part of Syrian Islamic Liberation Front)
- Ansar al-Sham (formerly part of the Syrian Islamic Front)
- Kurdish Islamic Front
Not all groups in the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front have agreed (or declined) to be a part of the Islamic Front, despite the leaders of both coalitions having joined the Front as key figures. The Syrian Islamic Front tweeted that it had disbanded and its component groups would hereby operate under the Islamic Front. The Syrian Islamic Liberation Front announced its dissolution on the 26th of November 2013.
A Liwa al-Tawhid member said the old names "will disappear and the groups will now melt [sic] into the new merger. There will be no such thing as Liwa al-Tawhid." The head of the group's Consultative Council, Amad Essa al-Sheikh, said the group sought "a paradigm shift in the armed rebellion by closing ranks and mobilising them to become the real alternative to the dying regime." He added that the group would cooperate with what it called "loyal fighters" in the country, including the Free Syrian Army (FSA). However on 3 December 2013 they withdrew from the command of the FSA and criticized its leadership. On 6 December 2013 fighters from the Islamic Front seized several FSA bases and depots at the Bab al-Hawa crossing. This has caused conflict between the two.
The merger follows the death of Liwa al-Tawhid's military leader, Abdel Qader Saleh, from wounds a week earlier following an air strike in Aleppo where he was meeting other leaders. A group member, Adil Fistok, said the merger planning was in the works for seven months; Fistok stated that "One of the major obstacles we faced was the lust for power by some leaders. But eventually everyone made concessions in order to make this project happen." According to him the primary challenge was a lack of money and weapons. It has been estimated by Charles Lister of IHS Jane's that the total amount of fighters the Islamic Front has may number up to 45,000.
In December 2013, the Islamic Front seized the FSA headquarters along with key supply warehouses in Atmeh as well as the nearby border crossing with Turkey at Bab al-Hawa. FSA Chief-of-Staff Brigadier General Salim Idris fled via Turkey to Doha, Qatar in the assault. However, the FSA has denied that Idris has left Syria and has also stated the Islamic Front was asked to help the FSA fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The FSA confirmed on 13 December 2013 that the Islamic Front had obtained machine guns and ammo that was not supposed to be in the possession of the Islamists. Later that month the Islamic Front and Free Syrian Army reconciled.
By early 2014, the Islamic Front had condemned the actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant; and some factions within the alliance attacked it. Several Islamic Front brigades including Suqour al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham developed internal divisions on how to or even whether to confront the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. 
The Islamic Front released its charter on the Internet in late November 2013, outlining its aims and objectives, although the document avoided providing a clear vision of the future. The Islamic Front's charter rejects the concepts of representative democracy and secularism, instead seeking to establish an Islamic State ruled by a Majlis-ash-Shura and implementing Sharia. It acknowledges the ethnic and religious minorities that live in Syria, while also welcoming the foreign fighters who have joined the anti-Assad forces and rejecting non-military means of ending the civil war.
Affiliation with Al-Qaeda
In January 2014 Abu Khaled al-Suri, a top official of a member group Ahrar ash-Sham, acknowledged that he considers himself a member of al-Qaeda. The Syrian government released Suri from a government prison in the first few weeks of the uprising. In February 2014 Suri was killed in a suicide attack blamed on ISIL
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