Syrian Rebel Group Quits Islamist Alliance, To Refocus Fight

An opposition group in Syria has said it is leaving an alliance in order to redeploy its fores to Aleppo where pro-government fighting has intensified. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Faqir

BEIRUT, Jan 3 – A Syrian insurgent group said on Sunday it was pulling out of a coalition of Islamist factions operating in the northwest of the country, in order to redeploy around Aleppo where pro-government forces have intensified assaults in recent months.

Since Russia’s intervention in the Syria conflict in September with an air campaign to support President Bashar Al Assad, pro-government forces have stepped up offensives in the west and north of the country.

Government forces backed by Iranian troops and Russian air strikes have advanced in Aleppo province, edging closer to a major rebel-controlled highway.

Failaq Al Sham said in a statement that it was withdrawing from the Army of Conquest, which includes the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and powerful Islamist group Ahrar al Sham, and which captured most of neighboring Idlib province in 2015.

“As enemies from inside and abroad, the regime and its Shabiha (militias), Shiites and Russians concentrate efforts on bringing down the Aleppo region, we are giving priority to supporting revolutionaries in the Aleppo area,” the statement, posted online, said.

“We therefore announce our exit from the Army of Conquest operations room, which has finished its mission in the battle to conquer Idlib.”

The statement did not indicate any tension with other groups within the Army of Conquest.

While pro-government forces have advanced in the southern Aleppo countryside and in the western coastal province of Latakia, rebels have managed to advance in other areas including Hama province, where anti-tank missiles supplied to insurgent groups have been used effectively.

Pro-government forces have in recent days also tried to push forward against insurgents in Hama province, Britain-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

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