Jaysh al-Islam

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Jaysh al-Islam
جيش الإسلام‎
Participant in the Syrian Civil War
Logo of Jaysh al-Islam.jpg
Official logo of Jaysh al-Islam
Active 2011–2013 (as Liwa al-Islam)
2013–present (as united faction)
Ideology

Sunni Islamism[1]

Founding leader Zahran Alloush [2]
Military leader

Essam al-Buwaydhani (2015–present)[3]

Abu Jamal (military chief)[4]
Political leader Mohammed Alloush[5][6]
Spokesman Islam Alloush (former)[7][8]
Headquarters Eastern Ghouta, in the Damascus suburb of Otaybah[9][10]
Area of operations Arsal, Lebanon[11]
Damascus, Rif Dimashq, and Homs Governorate,[12] Syria
Strength

17,000–25,000 [13][14]
(May 2015)

12,000[15]
(December 2016)
Part of Islamic Front
(2013–2016)[16][17][18]
Mujahideen Shura Council
(2014–2015)[19]
Syrian Revolutionary Command Council
(2014–2015)[20]
Unified Military Command of Eastern Ghouta
(2014–2015)[21][22]
Rad al-Mazalem
(2013–present)[23][24][25][26]
Originated as Liwa al-Islam (Arabic: لواء الإسلام‎‎)
Allies
Opponents
Battles and wars
Website www.jaishalislam.com

Jaysh al-Islam (Arabic: جيش الإسلام‎‎‎, meaning Army of Islam), formerly known as Liwa al-Islam (Brigade of Islam), is a coalition of Islamist and Salafist units involved in the Syrian Civil War.[27] Its primary base of operations has been the Damascus area, particularly the city of Douma and region of Eastern Ghouta.[9] Jaysh al-Islam is the largest rebel faction in the area,[36] as was Liwa al-Islam.[37] The group was a part of the Islamic Front.[16][17][18] The organization has rejected membership of the Free Syrian Army.[38] The group along with Ahrar ash-Sham are the main rebel groups supported by Saudi Arabia.[39] The group aims to create an Islamic state under Sharia law.[40][41]

History[edit]

Jaysh al-Islam recruits during a military parade with a captured T-72AV

Liwa al-Islam[edit]

Liwa al-Islam was established by Zahran Alloush, the son of Saudi-based religious scholar Abdullah Mohammed Alloush, after Syrian authorities released him from prison in mid-2011,[42] where he had been serving time for his Salafist activism.[citation needed] The group claimed responsibility for carrying out the July 2012 Damascus bombing that killed Defense Minister Dawoud Rajiha, Deputy Defense Minister Asef Shawkat, and Assistant Vice President Hassan Turkmani. Liwa al-Islam was a driving force behind actions in the Damascus region. It cooperated and conducted joint operations with the Al-Nusra Front.[2]

Merger to form Jaysh al-Islam[edit]

On 29 September 2013, 50 rebel factions operating mostly around Damascus announced they were merging into a new group called Jaysh al-Islam. Liwa al-Islam was the dominant faction in this merger, and its leader Zahran Alloush was announced as the leader of Jaysh al-Islam.[43][44] Thirty-eight of the original groups listed as joining the merger were already members of, or affiliated with, Liwa al Islam.[45][46] By November 2013, 60 groups had merged into Jaysh al-Islam,[47] and more than 175 rebel groups around Syria expressed a desire to join it.[47]

The new group's creation was said to have been negotiated and spearheaded by Saudi Arabia, who believed that Al-Nusra Front was gaining too much strength.[27] After the merger, The Guardian reported that Saudi Arabia was preparing to give the group millions of dollars to "arm and train" its fighters,[1] and use instructors from Pakistan to help train the group.[48] Jaysh al-Islam has criticized the Syrian National Coalition, stating that the group should be led by those who are fighting in Syria rather than leaders in exile.[27] On 26 April 2015, they established the Fatah Halab joint operations room along with other major Aleppo based groups.[citation needed]

On the 24 January 2017 several factions from Jaysh al-Islam based in Aleppo left to join Ahrar al-Sham, establishing the al-Anasar Regiment.[49]

On 25 January 2017, Jaysh al-Islam's Idlib branch joined Ahrar al-Sham.[50]

A new video of training camps was released by Jaysh al-Islam.[51]

Ideology[edit]

The Islamic Front criticized ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), saying: "They killed the people of Islam and leave the idol worshippers" and "They use the verses talking about the disbelievers and implement it on the Muslims".[52]

Jaysh al-Islam released a video[when?] showing the execution of ISIS members and showed a Jaysh al-Islam sharia official condemning ISIS as "Khawarij" (deviating from mainstream Islam).[53]

In 2013, Alloush gave a speech attacking the Shi'ites, whom he called "Rafidis", the Alawites and "the Zoroastrians", saying "the mujahideen of the Levant will cleanse the Levant of the filth of Rafidis and Rafidism, they will cleanse it for ever God willing, till they will cleanse the land of the Levant of the filth of the Fireworshippers who fought the religion of God Almighty", "the Shi'a are still despicable and pitiful through history", "And I give you the news, oh filthy Rafidis: Just as the Umayyads crushed your heads in the past, the people of Ghouta and the Levant will crush them soon, they will make you taste a painful torment in this world, before God makes you taste it in the hereafter".[54]

Alloush has denounced democracy and called for an Islamic state to succeed Assad, however in a May 2015 interview with McClatchy journalists, Alloush used moderate rhetoric, claiming that Syrians should decide what sort of state they wanted to live under and that Alawites were “part of the Syrian people” and only those with blood on their hands should be held accountable. His spokesman went on to claim that the sectarian and Islamist rhetoric Alloush had previously made was only intended for internal consumption and to rally his fighters.[55][56][57]

Terrorist group accusations[edit]

Jaysh al-Islam has been designated as a terrorist organization by Syria, Russia, Iran, and Egypt.[58] At the June 28, 2016 Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado, John Kerry, perhaps accidentally, referred to Jaysh al-Islam as one of several "subgroups" of terrorist groups, saying

But the most important thing, frankly, is seeing if we can reach an understanding with the Russians about how to, number one, deal with Daesh and al-Nusrah. Al-Nusrah is the other group there – Jabhat al-Nusrah. They are a designated terrorist group by the United Nations. And there are a couple of subgroups underneath the two designated – Daesh and Jabhat al-Nusrah – Jaysh al-Islam, Ahrar al-Sham particularly – who brush off and fight with that – alongside these other two sometimes to fight the Assad regime.[59]

before which he had said of Jaysh al-Islam that

From Orlando to San Bernardino to the Philippines and Bali, we’ve seen pictures and we’ve heard testimony of shocking crimes committed by al-Qaida, by Boko Haram, by Jaysh al-Islam, by Ahrar al-Sham, by al-Shabaab, Daesh, other groups against innocent civilians, against journalists, and against teachers particularly.[59]

These statements had political repercussions with one senior administration official reportedly saying that despite the fact that “for months, we’ve been arguing to make sure the Russians and the Syrian regime don’t equate these groups with the terrorists, Kerry’s line yields that point.”[60] Explaining these comments, US State Department spokesman John Kirby said that "secretary Kerry was simply trying to describe the complexity of the situation in Syria, noting that we aren’t blind to the notion that some fighters shift their loyalties."[60][61]

Notable incidents[edit]

Capture of sophisticated equipment[edit]

On 6 October 2012, Liwa al-Islam captured two 9K33 Osa SAM systems in Eastern Ghouta with at least 12 missiles total.[62] A video was posted on 29 July 2013, with it being used to shoot down a Syrian Mil Mi-8.[63] In November 2013, the group captured two training-jets (L-39s used by the government as jet fighters) from the Syrian Air Force and showed them on the runway.[64] But so far, they haven't been used in combat.

Filmed execution of ISIL members[edit]

On 30 June 2015, Jaysh al-Islam's website published a 20-minute video that showed its fighters executing 18 alleged ISIL militants by shotgun. The video mimics the imagery that ISIL has used for similar filmed executions; however, it reversed the imagery by having the executioners wearing orange prisoner outfits and the victims being dressed in black robes. The video, which included some English subtitles, stated the killings were in revenge for recent beheadings of captured Jaysh al-Islam fighters by ISIL.[65][66]

Attack on Adra Prison[edit]

In August[67] and September, 2015, Jaysh al-Islam shelled and stormed Adra Prison. As of September 12, 2015, it had taken control of two buildings.[68][69]

Use of captives as human shields[edit]

On November 1, 2015, an opposition media outlet, Shaam News Network, posted a video showing Jaysh al-Islam militants had locked people in cages and spread out 100 cages containing about 7 captives each through Eastern Ghouta, northeast of Damascus, to use them as human shields against Syrian government air raids.[70][71] According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the caged people being used as human shields were captured Alawite military officers and their families who had been kidnapped by Jaish al-Islam two years ago outside Adra al-Ummaliyah, a government-held neighbourhood in Eastern Ghouta.[72]

December 25 airstrike[edit]

On December 25, 2015, the group's founder Zahran Alloush was killed, along with several other leaders of the group, in a Syrian air strike on the suburbs of Damascus.[73][74] Abu Hammam Bouwaidani succeeded him as leader.[75]

Since the death of Zahran Alloush there have been conflicts between Jaysh al-Islam and other members of the Unified Military Command of Eastern Ghouta, along with associated groups such as Al-Nusra Front and its Jaish Al-Fustat operations room. Ahrar ash-Sham have remained neutral.[76][77][78][79][80][81]

On 24 May 2016, leaders of Jaysh al-Islam and al-Rahman Legion met to sign a peace deal to end hostilities.[82]

Use of chemical weapons[edit]

On April 7, 2016, the Sheikh Maqsood neighborhood in Aleppo was shelled with mortars containing chemical agents.[83] On April 8, a spokesman for the rebel group admitted that “forbidden” weapons had been used against Kurdish militia and civilians in Aleppo. He stated that “One of our commanders has unlawfully used a type of weapon that is not included in our list”. He did not specify what substances were used but, according to Red Crescent, the symptoms are consistent with the use of chlorine gas or other agents. Welat Memo, a physician with the Kurdish Red Crescent said that the people affected are "vomiting and having difficulty in breathing."[83][84]

Shooting of demonstrators[edit]

On 30 April 2017, Jaysh al-Islam fighters opened fire on demonstrators who called for an end to the rebel infighting. Between 26 April and 1 May, more than 95 rebels were killed during clashes between Jaysh al-Islam, Tahrir al-Sham, and the Rahman Legion. The clashes led to Syrian Army advances in eastern Damascus.[85]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]