Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Syria: events in Azaz

18 Sep    taken over by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria from FSA

18 Sep Contact in #Azaz says #ISIS jihadis now control key #Syria border town, curfew imposed. Media activist: "it is outrageous". 18 Sep Activist in #Azaz #Syria FB post "we will no longer call this city liberated" after #ISIS jihadis take over.

From The New York Times, 3/10 Rebel Feuding in Syria Affects Northern Border Town:
the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS, routed local rebels to take control of Azaz two weeks ago
Rebels who oppose the ISIS jihadists have collected their forces at the Bab al-Salameh border crossing a few miles away and are preparing to protect it should the jihadists advance. Turkey has kept the crossing closed since Sept. 19 because of security concerns, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official said.
Seeking to end the crisis, a group of six powerful rebel brigades released a statement late Wednesday calling for an immediate cease-fire. In a jab at the strict ideology of the ISIS jihadists, the statement told them not “to shed the blood of Muslims and be hasty in calling them heretics and apostates.” It also called on both sides to submit themselves to the Sharia Commission, a rebel-run court in the northern city of Aleppo, within 48 hours to resolve the problem.
It was unclear if the ISIS fighters would heed the call. 
Aymenn J. Al-Tamimi has a detailed account and analysis of events in Azaz (9 Oct): 
Originally, so the activists behind the anti-ISIS SHA explain to me, ISIS did not have a “military presence” in Azaz. Rather, Azaz had a services office where responsibilities for providing shelter and medical treatment were entrusted to ISIS members, who also used the office as a means to engage in da’wah outreach to the local population.
That ISIS was able to establish itself in Azaz initially through provision of services comes as no surprise. As I have documented elsewhere, the group wields significantly greater financial clout than other rebel factions and can thus more readily provide aid to locals, even as the extent of social services do not quite match that of the other al-Qa’ida affiliate in Syria Jabhat al-Nusra.
ISIS gunmen entered the hospital demanding that the German doctor be handed over, and when the “workers and doctors refused to have him arrested, they opened live fire on the doctors and the people, striking terror in them. So one of the civilian sick came to them and said: ‘How can you open fire on us when we and you are Muslims?’ They said: ‘You are infidel dogs.’ And they fired at his chest, and there were not two meters between the killer and the one slain.”
[On 3 October], the town of Azaz saw some anti-ISIS demonstrations, with calls for the removal of ISIS from the town. In response, ISIS appears to have used gunfire to disperse protestors.
A number of the signatories of the 3 October statement are members of what has been termed the ‘Islamic Coalition’ in media in rejection of the opposition-in-exile and in favor of Shari’a as the main source of legislation in a future Syria. Pace the widespread narrative such as in this Washington Post article, it is not a formal coalition of any kind and is not led by Jabhat al-Nusra,
The key to understanding the inaction [of Liwa al-Tawheed] lies in the decision of the Aleppo Shari’a committee, whose authority is taken seriously by ‘Islamic Coalition’ battalions like LAT, at the end of September to condemn Northern Storm as a criminal organization and bar it from bearing arms, on the grounds of spreading fitna (discord) between FSA-banner battalions and ISIS. This condemnation was no doubt partly bolstered by Northern Storm’s well-established reputation for banditry, similar to the image problem suffered by the Northern Farouq brigades, whose criminality facilitated their expulsion from northern localities like Manbij and Tel Abyaḍ.
Northern Storm’s prior actions reflect a wider problem for FSA-banner battalions of generally non-ideological leaning in the north of the country: namely, a reputation for criminality contrasting with the outreach efforts of Islamist groups. Aware of the trends, these FSA-banner groups have tried to assert a more Islamic face, as when Northern Storm declared support for the ‘Islamic Coalition’ saying that Shari’a was its goal all along.


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