Islamist militants HTS prevent Turkish army entering Syria’s Dara Izza

Jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has prevented a Turkish army column from entering Dara Izza, in Syria’s Aleppo province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

The Observatory said that HTS members manning the Al-Katoura checkpoint blocked Turkish military vehicles from passing on Tuesday. 

The move comes as tension has grown recently between HTS and the Turkish military and its proxies. The Observatory said that HTS is seeking to open a commercial crossing with areas controlled by the Syrian government, and that they had been removing a soil barrier erected on Monday by Turkish forces to block the transit of HTS vehicles. 

Turkish forces have also been deployed near the junction of Katian town, to stop HTS trucks from trying to enter areas controlled by Syrian government forces near the town of Ma’ara al-Na’asan, the Observatory said. 

Three HTS members were killed last weekend by the Turkish military after Turkish forces destroyed tents in Al-Karama and reportedly fired tear gas and live rounds to open the road for the passage of four Russian cars, enabling a joint patrol with the Turkish army. HTS targeted a Turkish armoured vehicle with a missile in the village of Al-Nayrab on Sunday in retaliation.

Turkish drones also targeted HTS positions for the first time on Sunday near Al-Nayrab, killing two members of HTS and injuring three others, Asharq Al-Awsat said.

Asharq Al-Awsat said on Tuesday that talks between HTS and Turkey to end the tension were taking place.

HTS is an umbrella jihadist group known to have incorporated fighters from the Nusra Front, which had pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda.