East Ghouta inter-rebel conflict (April–May 2017)

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East Ghouta inter-rebel conflict (April–May 2017)
Part of the Rif Dimashq Governorate campaign, siege of eastern Ghouta and the inter-rebel conflict during the Syrian Civil War
Date28 April – 31 May 2017
(1 month and 3 days)
Location
Result Indecisive
Belligerents

Jaysh al-Islam


Ahrar al-Sham (since 11 May)[1]
Glory Brigades (until 8 May, rejoined Al-Rahman Legion)[2]
Tahrir al-Sham
Al-Rahman Corps calligraphy.jpg Al-Rahman Legion
Commanders and leaders

Qassem Qadesh 
(Operations commander in Marj)[3]
Numan Awad Executed
(JaI military services chief)[4]

Col. Abu Muhammad al-Kurdi[5]
(high-ranking officer, defected from Rahman Legion)

Abu Ghazi [6]
(HTS emir of Arbin)
Al-Rahman Corps calligraphy.jpg Capt. Abu Najib [7]
(al-Rahman Legion office manager and deputy commander)

Al-Rahman Corps calligraphy.jpg Essam al-Qadi [6]
(Al-Rahman Legion commander)
Units involved
  • Fajr al-Umma Brigade
    (Joined Ahrar al-Sham on 11 May 2017)[8]

Al-Rahman Corps calligraphy.jpg Al-Rahman Legion

Casualties and losses
89 killed,[11] 15 captured[1] 67 killed[11]
13–30 civilians killed[11][12]
400+ fighters and civilians killed overall[13]

The East Ghouta inter-rebel conflict (April–May 2017) was an armed conflict between the rebel groups Tahrir al-Sham and al-Rahman Legion on one side, and the rebel group Jaysh al-Islam on the other, which took place in the rebel-held territories east of Damascus. Open conflict between the groups also took place exactly one year earlier, before a ceasefire was implemented.

Background[edit]

Conflict[edit]

On 28 April, sounds of intense fighting echoed through several suburbs of Eastern Ghouta, with Jaysh al-Islam fighters assaulting Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and Rahman Legion forces. Jaysh al-Islam claimed that this happened due to these rebel groups preventing their convoys from reinforcing the Qaboun suburb. On the same day, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that 40 rebel fighters from all sides were killed in the clashes, including a HTS Emir in Arbin.[14] On 29 April, masked gunmen stormed a hospital operated by Médecins Sans Frontières in Hazzeh and forced the MSF to suspend activities in the area.[15] On 30 April, Jaysh al-Islam announced that they were waging a full-scale operation against HTS and warned fighters belonging to the Rahman Legion to not support them, as of that day 95 people have been killed during the infighting, according to SOHR. However, the same day, HTS combatants allied with the Rahman Legion and Ahrar al-Sham stormed, and after intense clashes, captured the towns of Jisrin and Hazzeh.[16][17] On the same day, around 3,000 residents in Arbin demonstrated against the rebel infighting. Jaysh al-Islam fighters opened fire on the protesters, killing a child and injuring 14 others.[12]

During the first day of May, fighters of Jaysh al-Islam entered the town of Zamalka, engaging in fierce clashes with forces of the Rahman Legion and HTS.[18] By the same day, more than 120 people were killed in the fighting.[15] On 3 May, Jaysh al-Islam fighters recaptured the town of Beit Sawa from Faylaq al-Rahman, during the same day they also made a deal with the Syrian Army, according to which, 51 aid convoys entered Douma in exchange for Jaysh al-Islam release of hundreds predominantly Alawite citizens of Syria captured by the group throughout the years.[19][20]

On 4 May, HTS and the Rahman Legion recaptured large parts of Arbin from Jaysh al-Islam.[21] The next day, Jaysh al-Islam declared an end to its combat operations against HTS.[22]

On 8 May, Jaysh al-Islam once again declared war on HTS and the Rahman Legion,[23] with clashes resuming.[24] Also on 8 May 2017, Glory Brigades rejoined the Rahman Legion after the Rahman Legion surrounded their headquarters in Hammouriyah two days ago.[2]

On 11 May, the Rahman Legion raided the headquarters of Ahrar al-Sham in Arbin and captured 15 of their fighters. This was followed by clashes.[1] On the same day, the Fajr al-Umma Brigade announced its accession into Ahrar al-Sham.[8] Two days later, a fighter of the Rahman Legion attacked a medical center in Maliha and opened fire on the people inside. A medical worker was shot and injured.[25] On 15 May, Jaysh al-Islam fighters stormed Tahrir al-Sham and Faylaq al-Rahman bases in Beit Sawa and Al-Asha'ari setting off intense firefights. The same day, Jaysh al-Islam also made progress against Faylaq al-Rahman in the outskirts of Hamouriyah, with numerous casualties on both sides.[26]

On 30 May, a new round of clashes ensued between the warring factions as Jaysh al-Islam captured the Ashari farms from HTS and the Rahman Legion.[27] The next day, Jaysh al-Islam attempted to fully secure the Ashari area,[28] but a counter-attack by the Rahman Legion forced Jaysh al-Islam to retreat from the Ashari farms.[29] Pro-government media claimed that Jaysh al-Islam resorted to deploying child fighters against rival groups in Eastern Ghouta pocket, with at least two fighters under 16 years of age being killed during the clashes at Ashari farms.[30][better source needed]

Aftermath[edit]

On 6 June, the Syrian Army managed to cut off Tall Farzat-al-Nashabiyah supply route for Jaysh al-Islam, thus further complicating their situation.[31] A month later, Jaysh al-Islam decided to use a situation created by the Syrian Army offensive in Jobar and Ayn Tarma, which resulted in Faylaq al-Rahman and Tahrir al-Sham diverting their fighters to fight the Syrian Army, to storm the positions of aforementioned rebel groups in the towns of Beit Sawa and Al-Ashari.[32]

On 22 July 2017, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that a de-escalation agreement had been signed for Eastern Ghouta in Cairo following a talks between Russian military officials and Jaish al Islam.[33]

On 6 August 2017, 120 Ahrar al-Sham fighters in Arbin defected to the Rahman Legion after internal disputes.[34] Ahrar al-Sham accused the Rahman Legion of seizing their weapons, while the Rahman Legion accused Ahrar al-Sham of their attempt to implement their "failed" experience from northern Syria in eastern Ghouta.[35] Tahrir al-Sham reportedly sided with Ahrar al-Sham against the Sham Legion during the clashes.[36] A ceasefire agreement between the Rahman Legion and Ahrar al-Sham was implemented on 9 August.[37]

On 16 August 16, a Failaq al Rahman representative and a Russian representative signed an agreement in Geneva city that established Failaq al Rahman’s inclusion in the de-escalation zone in Eastern Ghouta, to come into effect at 21:00 on 18 August.[33]

SOHR reported that government bombing resumed in Eastern Ghouta on 27 September 2017.[38]

In February 2018, the Syrian army launched an operation to dislodge rebels from the area. In early March 2018, the Syrian army had captured 59% of the Eastern Ghouta pocket. On 7 April 2018, at least 48 people were reportedly killed in a chemical attack in Douma, which resulted in an armed response from the United States, France, and the United Kingdom.[39]On 14 April 2018, the Syrian Army officially declared Eastern Ghouta to be free of militants, securing it under government control.[40]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "After fighting against Jaysh al-Islam…fighting outbreak between the Islamic Movement of Ahrar al-Sham and al-Rahman Corps in Arbin in the Eastern Ghouta". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 11 May 2017.
  2. ^ a b c "Joško Barić on Twitter".
  3. ^ Yakovlev, Ivan (3 May 2017). "Jaish Al-Islam loses a top commander as jihadist infighting in rural Damascus keeps raging".
  4. ^ Fadel, Leith (4 May 2017). "High ranking Jaysh Al-Islam commander killed by jihadist infighting".
  5. ^ "VIDEO: 'Faylaq Al-Rahman' commander defects amid intense militant infighting in rural Damascus". Al-Masdar News. 3 March 2017.
  6. ^ a b "Rebel infighting tears apart Eastern Ghouta as Syrian Army advances". Al-Madar News. 28 April 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  7. ^ "High ranking rebel commander killed by infighting in East Ghouta". Al-Madar News. 2 May 2017. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  8. ^ a b "Integration of "the dawn of the nation" with "free Sham" East Balgoth Rural Damascus". Qasioun News Agency. 12 May 2017. Archived from the original on 19 October 2017. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  9. ^ JOŠKO BARIĆ (30 April 2017). "Faylaq al-Rahman's decline in East Ghouta". Syrian War Daily.
  10. ^ JOŠKO BARIĆ (30 April 2017). "Faylaq al-Rahman's decline in East Ghouta". Syrian War Daily.
  11. ^ a b c "A week of clashes kills about 170 civilians and fighters in the Eastern Ghouta".
  12. ^ a b "'A stab in the back': New wave of rebel infighting in East Ghouta amidst siege, bombardment". Syria Direct.
  13. ^ "East Ghouta's rebel infighting spills over to embattled civilians: 'The factions are sowing hatred'". Syria Direct. Retrieved 3 June 2017.
  14. ^ Adra, Zen (28 April 2017). "Rebel infighting tears apart Eastern Ghouta as Syrian Army advances". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  15. ^ a b Justin Schuster; Noura Hourani (2 May 2017). "'Double the suffering': East Ghouta's medical sector caught between airstrikes and infighting". Syria:direct.
  16. ^ Adra, Zen (30 April 2017). "Syrian rebels in Eastern Ghouta vow to eradicate Nusra Front". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  17. ^ Tomson, Chris (1 May 2017). "Al-Qaeda captures two villages from rival rebels amid infighting east of Damascus". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  18. ^ Tomson, Chris (1 May 2017). "90 insurgents killed as Jaish Al-Islam storms rival Islamist stronghold in rural Damascus". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  19. ^ Yakovlev, Ivan (3 May 2017). "Jaish Al-Islam loses a top commander as jihadist infighting in rural Damascus keeps raging". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  20. ^ Tomson, Chris (3 May 2017). "BREAKING: Jaish Al-Islam releases hundreds of Alawite prisoners in rural Damascus". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  21. ^ "Clashes of the Eastern Ghouta enter their 7th day after the advancement of Rahman Corps and Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham in Arbin and restoring large parts of it".
  22. ^ Fadel, Leith (5 May 2017). "Jihadist infighting ends in East Ghouta region".
  23. ^ Fadel, Leith (8 May 2017). "Jaysh Al-Islam declares war on former allies in East Ghouta".
  24. ^ "After 72 hours of calm… clashes return between major factions of the Eastern Ghouta".
  25. ^ "An element of Rahman Corps attacked a medical center in the Eastern Ghouta". Al-Etihad Press. 14 May 2017.
  26. ^ Adra, Zen (15 May 2017). "Eastern Ghouta infighting resumes as Syrian Army expands control around the capital". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  27. ^ ""Army of Islam" controlled Ash'ari farms in Ghouta". Enab Baladi. 30 May 2017.
  28. ^ "Renewed clashes for the second consecutive day in Ashari Farms between the major factions of the Eastern Ghouta". Retrieved 3 June 2017.
  29. ^ Adra, Zen (31 May 2017). "Syrian Army advances in Eastern Ghouta as rebel infighting rages". Retrieved 3 June 2017.
  30. ^ "In pictures: Saudi-backed group actively uses child fighters against rival jihadists in Damascus". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. 7 June 2017. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  31. ^ "Syrian Army cuts off major supply route in Eastern Ghouta". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. 6 June 2017. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  32. ^ "Militants attack one another in East Ghouta as the Syrian Army advances in Jobar". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. 6 July 2017. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  33. ^ a b No less than 534 Barrel Bombs in October 2017, Syrian Network for Human Rights, 9 November 2017
  34. ^ "Security tension in Al-Ghouta after the joining of a battalion of «Ahrar Al Sham» to «Corps of the Lord»". Aawsat. 7 August 2017.
  35. ^ "The split of dozens of elements from the free Cham and their joining the "Corps of Rahman"". El-Dorar al-Shamia. 6 August 2017.
  36. ^ "The Free Syrian Army condemns the attack on its headquarters in the eastern Ghouta". Al-Quds al-Arabi. 8 August 2017.
  37. ^ "The agreement terms implemented with Failaq al-Rahman, Senior commander of Ahrar al-Sham tells AlDorar". Al-Dorar al-Shamia. 10 August 2017.
  38. ^ More casualties raise the death toll to 4 persons after the first bombing on the Eastern Ghouta after stopping lasted for two months, SOHR, 27 September 2017
  39. ^ Loveluck, Louiusa. "Dozens killed in apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians in eastern Ghouta — rescue workers". Washington Post. Fred Ryan. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  40. ^ "Syrian army announces eastern Ghouta free of militants: state media". Reuters. 14 April 2018.