By Oliviero Reusser
On the late 15th of August, statements appeared on opposition social media which seemed to detail a mass-pledge of allegiance of several smaller armed factions based in Hama province to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). This move is the latest by HTS in order to increase its foothold in greater Idlib and unite the smaller battalions and locally-entrenched groups in the area under one – preferably their – banner. While HTS already has a notable presence on the frontlines of northern Hama, other groups such as Jaish al-Izza, Jaish al-Nasr, and Faylaq al-Sham also have a presence in the towns at the front.
The statement is updated and speaks of the formation of “Jaish al-Hama” (The Hama Army) and lists six groups that joined it as well as the other factions the group belongs to. List of the groups: Brigades of Liwa Abdullah Azzam (Ahrar al-Sham), Brigades of Liwa al-Iman (Ahrar al-Sham), Brigade from Used al-Harb (Ahrar alSham), Liwaaa Ahl al-Bayt (Ahrar al-Sham), Liwaa Used al-Islam Artillery and Infantry battalion (Jund al-Sham) and Liwa al-Majd (Ajnad al-Sham). The overall leader and emir are Abo Taher al-Hamawi, the military commander is Abo Badr al-Hijazi and its administrator (probably secretary-general) is Abo Abdel Ghani al-Hamawi. The total number of fighters, which joined HTS with this newest defection, is about 500.
A few hours later, however, the twitter account of the Ahrar al-Sham Liwa al-Iman brigade, posted a statement declaring that they did not join HTS fully; merely 16 of their fighters defected to the new Hama army and thus joined HTS.
بيان توضيحي تعقيباً على بيان تشكيل ما يسمى ب “جيش حماه” من قبل هيئة تحرير الشام pic.twitter.com/dKekP7z1Xe— جيش الإيمان (@imanbrigade) August 15, 2017
It is worth noting that two other rebel battalions left Ahrar al-Sham and joined HTS in the last few days: Kataibat Hani al-Nasr and Taibat Liwa al-Eyman, the first one operates in the city of Khan Sheikhoun.
Kataibat Hani al-Nasr and Taibat Liwa al-Imam, both formerly with Ahrar, defected to #HTS pic.twitter.com/oaFRGQVLHE— oreusser (@AllyOfTruth) August 15, 2017