Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) is a coalition of northern Syria-based Sunni Islamist insurgent groups that evolved from Jabhat al-Nusrah, or “Nusrah Front,” al-Qa‘ida’s former branch in Syria.
During the initial years of Syria’s insurgency, infighting among Nusrah Front, ISIS, and factions aligned with these groups for territory, revenue, and resistance to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime led some leaders to shift allegiances. Most notably, Nusrah Front leader Abu Muhammad al-Jawlani broke with al-Qa‘ida in 2016 because of strategic disagreements. In 2017 the Nusrah Front merged with other antiregime groups in northwestern Syria to form HTS. HTS later established the Syrian Salvation Government, with 10 ministries to govern its territory. In 2018, HTS defectors who remained loyal to al-Qa‘ida formed the al-Qa‘ida branch in Syria, known as Hurras al-Din.
Northwest Syria (largely Idlib Province) and parts of Aleppo.
Between 5,000 and 10,000
TACTICS AND TARGETS
HTS primarily focuses on attacks against the Assad regime and seeks to replace it with a government guided by a fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law. HTS uses suicide attacks, guerilla tactics, and small-arms units to conduct attacks. The group places a priority on antiregime activities to enable its long-term survival in northwest Syria, although in 2014 Jawlani—as head of the Nusrah Front and before his break with al-Qa‘ida—called for retaliatory attacks against the US-led coalition in response to airstrikes in Syria.
FOREIGN TERRORIST GROUP DESIGNATION
In May 2018, the US State Department added HTS to the Nusrah Front’s existing December 2012 designation as a foreign terrorist organization.