HTS releases photos from battles with the Islamic State in Hama

HTS vehicle fires on Islamic State militants near the village of Umm Mayal in eastern Hama province

Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS), a jihadist conglomerate formed by al Qaeda’s main branch in Syria, released photos yesterday showing the battles between its forces and the Islamic State in Syria’s Hama province.

The photos show HTS fighters from its “Elite Forces” wing battling the Islamic State near the village of Umm Mayal and Talayhan in Hama’s eastern countryside. Fighters are seen progressing on the battlefield, using heavy machine guns on technicals and engaging in close to mid-range combat. Several photos show dead Islamic State fighters scattered around the small village.

At the same time, HTS also claimed to have dismantled an Islamic State IED and explosive cache inside HTS’ stronghold of Idlib province. The Islamic State, in turn, conducted a suicide bombing on HTS in Armanaz, Idlib.

The battles between the two jihadist forces flared up again earlier this week when the Islamic State launched its “Abu Muhammad al Adnani” campaign, which also focuses on regime, Russian, and Iranian forces in central Syria. Just days earlier, HTS launched its own offensive on regime forces in Hama, taking over the town of Abu Dali.

Since the rise of the Islamic State in 2013 and 2014, it has frequently clashed with its jihadist rivals. The infighting began when Al Nusrah Front and its emir, Abu Muhammad al Julani, refused to obey Baghdadi’s orders in Syria. The infighting that followed led to numerous deaths on both sides. The Islamic State has continued to clash with Julani’s men over the years, even after his organization changed its name twice in less than a year. This year, it has repeatedly attempted to seize ground from HTS in Damascus and elsewhere.

Earlier this year, HTS claimed to have uncovered a number of Islamic State cells operating throughout Idlib province. Infighting between HTS and Liwa al Aqsa, an Islamic State-loyal cell formed from the former Jund al Aqsa, also occurred earlier this year in southern Idlib and northern Hama. [For more, see FDD’s Long War Journal report, Islamic State attacks rival jihadists in Hama province.]

Photos from HTS showing the fighting:

Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

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