Feuds that have been ongoing between Turkish-backed “Syrian National Army” militias escalated beyond sporadic clashes into open warfare between al-Jabha al-Shamiya and Ahrar al-Sham in the occupied Afrin region of northern Syria.
Clashes reportedly began between the two groups in the city of al-Bab, following civilian protests against the alleged rape of a 5-year-old boy by members of one of the groups. Seven civilians were reportedly killed and another 15 wounded in these clashes.
Designated terrorist organization Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, sent fighters to support Ahrar al-Sham, reportedly to al-Bab, but also to Afrin, seizing swathes of territory including the Ghazawiya crossing between Afrin and Idlib, Basoufane, and entering the city of Jindires and the suburbs of Afrin city.
Destroyed vehicles of Jabha al-Shamiya in the Afrin countryside, June 2022
Clashes continued into June 19, in various villages between Idlib and Afrin city. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham destroyed multiple vehicles belonging to Jabha al-Shamiya in the clashes.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that calm had mostly returned to the Afrin and al-Bab regions of Turkish-occupied Syria by June 20, and allegedly the forces of HTS and Ahrar al-Sham had withdrawn to their previous positions.
Street warfare due to infighting between militias has become a frequent occurrence in Afrin since the Turkish occupation at the end of March 2018, as militias of the so-called “Syrian National Army” fight with one another over territory and resources. It is widely reported that these militias demonstrate little regard for civilian life.