Aug 31 2018

Turkey classifies Tahrir al-Sham as a terrorist group

Turkey has listed Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) as an alternate name for the al Nusrah Front, which it classes as a terrorist organisation, in a presidential decision published on Aug. 31. 

Turkey's reclassification of the group came as the Syrian regime prepares for a military offensive against the northwestern province of Idlib, which is currently under the control of HTS.

In accordance with a United Nations decision in June, Turkey updated the list of individuals and organisations whose financial assets will be frozen due to links to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State and added HTS to its list of alternate names used by al Nusrah.

HTS, whose name in Arabic means "Liberation of the Levant Committee," was formed in Jan. 2017 by several Islamist factions in Syria, including al Qaeda’s former branch in the country, in order to overcome the disputes among different groups and to strengthen the Islamist opposition against the Assad regime. HTS took control of Idlib in Syria in Jul. 2017, after the rival Ahrar al-Sham, backed by Turkey and Qatar, withdrew from the city. 

Turkey, Russia, and Iran reached an agreement in Sep. 2017 to establish de-escalation zones in Idlib and the first Turkish convoy entered the area the next month, escorted by fighters from HTS. 

Backed by Russia, the Syrian regime is preparing for a military assault in İdlib as the last enclave under rebel control in Syria, a move which Turkish Foreign Minister said last week would be a disaster not only for the Idlib region but also for the future of Syria.

The pro-Syrian regime news site Inside Syria Media Centre reported on Friday that Turkey had approved the first phase of the operation in Idlib, and had informed Russia that HTS would soon announce its decision to voluntarily liquidate.