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Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham

Not yet designated terrorist by a Western country
Base of operations: Syria

Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (Liberation of al-Sham Commission) is a merger of initially five factions announced on 28 January 2017. These factions are Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (the rebranded version of Jabhat al-Nusra that ostensibly dropped ties to al-Qa'ida), Jabhat Ansar al-Din (a jihadi coalition that was first announced in summer 2014), Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zinki (a rebel group originally from Aleppo province that eventually lost Western backing and has become close to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham), Liwa al-Haq and Jaysh al-Sunna (rebel groups whose fighters originally came from the Homs area, with Jaysh al-Sunna's fighters having received training at one point from the Western-backed 10th Division that is mainly based in the Latakia area). Both Liwa al-Haq and Jaysh al-Sunna have been components of the Jaysh al-Fatah rebel alliance that drove the regime out of most of Idlib province in northwest Syria 2015.

The overall leader of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham is Hashim al-Sheikh (Abu Jaber), who founded the Ahrar al-Sham subset Jaysh al-Ahrar in December 2016 that pushed for a merger with Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and subsequently dissolved it a month later. The new group also includes clerics like the jihadist Abdullah al-Muheisseni (of Saudi origin).

The context of the group's formation came amid significant infighting among factions that even saw clashes between Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham in some areas. These clashes came amid suspicions of wider international (principally U.S.) efforts to isolate Jabhat Fatah al-Sham with numerous airstrikes against its personnel, an initial failure of merger talks in the aftermath of the regime's recapture of Aleppo, and talks organized in Astana principally by Russia and Turkey to discuss ceasefire implementation between the rebels and the regime

Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham Emblem
Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham: Ibaa News Agency

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