13th Division (Syrian rebel group)
الفرقة 13Participant in the Syrian Civil War
Insignia of the 13th Division.
|Area of operations||Idlib Governorate|
|Size||1,800+ (own claim in 2014)|
|Battles and war(s)||Syrian Civil War
The 13th Division (Arabic: الفرقة 13) is a Syrian rebel group sanctioned by the Syrian National Council. It was among the first armed Syrian opposition groups to receive U.S.-made BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles. The group's leader lieutenant colonel Ahmad al-Sa’oud said during an interview that the missiles were provided by the Friends of Syria, which also (according to al-Sa'oud) provided training on how to use the advanced weaponry. According to a spokesperson for the FSA's Supreme Military Council, the 13th Division is funded by sources within Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
The 13th Division originated in March 2012 under the name of the "Slaves of Mercy Brigade" and grew that year to 1,000 men according to its leader Lt. Col. Ahmad al-Saoud, who defected from the Syrian Army. In 2013 the group was incorporated into the Free Syrian Army as the 13th Division.
In December 2013, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) overran a Division 13 base in Kafr Nabl, seizing ammunition and weaponry. This came after a history of clashes between the two groups. The following day, Lieutenant Colonel Ahmad al-Sa’oud was ambushed and captured in Taftanaz by ISIL while he was trying to negotiate for their return. He was released after two weeks. The group is currently fighting the Syrian government and ISIL.
The group fought in Khan al-Asal, the Rashideen neighbourhood, and the Research Sciences Centre in Aleppo. In Idlib and Hama Governorates, the 13th Division fought at Mork, Khan Shaykhun, Heish, Qumeis, Baboulin, Wadi Al-Deif military base and Al-Hamdiyyeh military base.
On 6 May 2015, along with 13 other Aleppo-based groups, joined the Fatah Halab joint operations room.
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 2017 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.
Clashes with al-Qaeda
In November 2014, the 13th Division and the al-Nusra Front clashed in Jabal Zawiya as part of the al-Nusra Front-SRF/Hazzm Movement conflict. Al-Nusra reportedly declared war on rebel factions receiving Western military support. However, fighting between the two groups soon ceased because the 13th Division "did not wanted to share the same fate as the Hazzm Movement", which was defeated and dissolved by al-Nusra.
On 13 March 2016, the al-Nusra Front and Jund al-Aqsa seized the headquarters of the 13th Division after an overnight battle for control of Maarrat al-Nu'man. Division 13 was involved in a truce with the Syrian army since February 27. Several fighters have deserted before the conflict with the Nusra began. Division 13 has confirmed that al-Nusra and Jund al-Aqsa captured all of their weapons. According to social media activists in support of the Syrian opposition, Jabhat al-Nusra attacked Division 13 after local demonstrations used the Syrian independence flag, rather than the black flag of jihad.
According to a report released by the Free Syrian Army, Jabhat al-Nusra and Jund al-Aqsa attacked their bases in Ma’arat al-Nu’man, killing 4 of their combatants and wounding as many as 20 others during a fierce battle between the groups. The Division 13 members stated that they could not hold their ground against al-Qaeda militants, so they surrendered two of their storage facilities that allegedly stored U.S. manufactured TOW anti-tank missiles as well as seizing armored vehicles, a tank, and other arms.
Experts have stated that ultimately, “There will be localized clashes, but not necessarily full-blown civil war. In Maarat al-Numan it’s easier to take on Nusra as Division 13 is stronger and there isn’t a Jaysh al-Fatah administration”.
On 18 July 2016, the al-Nusra Front was accused of kidnapping Zaher al-Ahmad, the commander of the division’s 56th Infantry Brigade en route from Maarat al-Numan to Aleppo.
On 30 September, Ahmad al-Sa'oud openly threatened al-Nusra on social media that the 13th Division has "no choice" but to "take revenge for the blood of its members", accusing people of "spreading lies and fabricating charges" against the 13th Division in order to ignite conflict.
On 5 April 2017, a vehicle carrying Lt. Col. Ahmad al-Saud and Colonel Ali al-Samahi, the chief of staff of the Free Idlib Army and formerly a commander in the 13th Division, came under fire from Tahrir al-Sham fighters at a checkpoint near Khan al-Subul, which was under complete control of Tahrir al-Sham. Al-Samahi and another fighter was killed in the shootout while al-Saud was wounded and was transferred to Turkey for treatment.
From 6 to 8 June, clashes broke out between Tahrir al-Sham and Sham Legion in Maarrat al-Nu'man. The 13th Division and the Free Police joined the fighting on 8 June. By the evening of 8 June, HTS captured both the 13th Division and the Sham Legion's headquarters in Maarat al-Nu'man and killed Col. Tayser al-Samahi, the brother of Col. Ali al-Samahi and the head of the Free Police in the town. On 9 June, Tahrir al-Sham announced the completion of their operations against the FSA and took full control of the town. Later that day, a ceasefire agreement was signed between the Free Idlib Army and Tahrir al-Sham in the town and the latter ordered the 13th Division to be disbanded.
In March 2014, the 13th Division counted 1,800 men according to its leader Ahmad al-Saoud, split into 10 companies, with another 200 in support roles.
Stance on Israel
- "Syria rebel recounts his time in an ISIL jail". Al Jazeera English. 10 March 2014. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
- "U.S.-Armed Syrian Rebel Group Seeks 'All Syrian Land Occupied by Israel'". Free Beacon. 19 May 2014. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
- "Nusra accused of kidnapping FSA commander". Now News. 20 July 2016.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-28. Retrieved 2016-03-14.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Blasts at Syria air force compound kill dozens: activists". 9 October 2012.
- "FSA: No terror is comparable to Assad's terror". 30 September 2014.
- "Armor Brigade North-band 13". 5 August 2013.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-02-12. Retrieved 2018-02-26.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Commander of the "band 13" Union Press: did not withdraw our personnel from the fronts of fighting al Daesh in Mare`". Al Etihad Press. 13 March 2016.
- "Announced the unification of the Free Army factions of the southern countryside of Idlib". AlSouria.net. 20 November 2014.
- Özkizilcik, Ömer (20 February 2017). "Jaysh al Haq (part of 13. Division), Suqour al Marat, Saraya Jaysh al Suqour from Marat al NoumN joined #AhrarAlSham".
- "Residents in northwest Syrian town caught in the latest crackdown by Al-Qaeda-linked rebel faction". Syria Direct. 12 June 2017.
- "Martyr, God willing, Abdul Karim Alito commander of the central power of the Frqh_13 selections of revolutionary career". 13th Division@Youtube. 21 September 2016.
- Mohammad Nemr (30 September 2014). "FSA: No terror is comparable to Assad's terror". Al-Monitor.
- Barnard, Mark Mazzetti, Anne; Schmitt, Eric (6 August 2016). "Military Success in Syria Gives Putin Upper Hand in U.S. Proxy War" – via NYTimes.com.
- "Nusra accused of kidnapping FSA commander".
- "Exclusive interview with Ahmad Al-Sa'oud, head of Division 13, one of the 9 factions given access to TOW missiles". Tahrir Souri. 17 May 2014. Archived from the original on 21 August 2014. Retrieved 23 August 2014.
- "Rebels say US-made missiles turning tide against regime". AFP. 13 October 2015. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
- ""Band 13" denies my News Anagha about "Idlib Free Army"". Baladi News Network. 11 April 2017.
- "Syria conflict: Jihadists 'beating America's allies'". BBC. 4 November 2014.
- "Who is the banner of the Knights of the right of the army free of Idlib? (profile)". Ana Press. 16 February 2017.
- "Syria's al-Nusra releases three US-trained rebels". The New Arab. 12 April 2016. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
- "Al-Qaeda clashes with U.S.-backed FSA rebels in Syria's Idlib". ARA News. 13 March 2016. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
- "13th Division commander threatens to open a front-Sham fight unless restore the rights of its people". Qasioun. 30 September 2016.
- "Activists: Sham Liberation Army assassinated a senior commander of Idlib Free (Photos)". Arabi 21. 5 April 2017.
- "(Edit Sham) controls the headquarters of the band (13) and Sham Corps in Maart". All4Syria. 8 June 2017.
- "(Edit Sham) announces halt its offensive on Maart and liquidates Prime Mkhvrha". All4Syria. 9 June 2017.
- "Agreement ending the clashes Maart on his head solution band 13". All4Syria. 10 June 2017.
- Official account of the 13th Division head Lt. Col. Ahmad al-Saud on Twitter (in Arabic)
- Official account of the 13th Division on Twitter (in Arabic)