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Last update: February 2023

The Syrian National Army (SNA) is a Turkish-backed armed umbrella group, and the second largest opposition coalition in Syria after HTS.

In 2019, the SNA incorporated the National Liberation Front (NLF), also a Turkish-backed alliance of opposition-armed groups using the brand of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), into its ranks [Actors, 4.3, p. 56, 5.1, p. 58]. The SNA lacked the unified central command of a conventional army. In order to consolidate factions, a variety of mergers into bigger formations was conducted throughout 2021. By January 2022, a single formation called the Azm Operations Room, incorporated most of the major SNA groups. Estimation of the total strength of the combined forces was at 80 000 fighters in 2021. [Security 2022, 1.4.2, p. 29]

Turkish-backed armed groups operating under the umbrella of the SNA controlled two discontinuous areas along the Syrian Turkish border covering most of northern Aleppo and segments of Raqqa and Hasaka governorates: ‘Operation Euphrates Shield’ (the area between Azaz, Al-Bab, and Jarablus, Aleppo governorate), ‘Operation Olive Branch’ (Afrin district, Aleppo governorate) and ‘Operation Peace Spring’ (the area between Tall Abyad, Raqqa governorate, and Ras al Ain, Hasaka governorate) [Security 2022, 1.5.2, p. 43; Security 2021, 1.5.2, p. 37].

During the reference period, abuses by the SNA against civilians continued, including arbitrary detention, abduction, torture, killing and other ill-treatment. Looting, theft, occupation and expropriation of predominately Kurdish properties by SNA were also reported [Targeting 2022, 10.2, p. 92].

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham or Organisation for the Liberation of the Levant (HTS) is a coalition of Islamist Sunni anti-government armed groups. It is comprised of several armed factions, including Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (also known as Jabhat al-Nusrah and previously as the Al-Nusrah Front) [Actors, 4.1.1, p. 50]. HTS has been listed as terrorist organisation, affiliated with Al Qaeda, by the EU and the UN. [Security 2021, 1.4.4, p. 25] It maintains its power through the Syrian Salvation Government. HTS’s strength was evaluated in 2022 to be around 10 000 fighters. [Security 2022, 1.4.4, p. 34]

In the northwest, an area incorporating the northern parts of Idlib governorate, as well as small parts of northern Hama, northern Latakia and western Aleppo governorates (the so called Idlib de-escalation zone) is regarded as the last remaining stronghold of anti-GoS armed groups, with HTS considered the dominant actor and military superior armed group in the area [Security 2022, 1.5.4, p. 47, 2.1.2, p. 69, 2.2.3, p. 87].

During the reference period, HTS continued to engage in extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and unlawful detention of civilians [Security 2022, 1.4.4, p. 35, 1.4.5, p. 27, 2.1.2, p. 67]. Enforced disappearances, confiscation of property, harassment and intimidation against women were also reported. [Targeting 2022, 8.2, p. 82, 11, p. 96, 13.4.2, pp. 118-119]

A number of other anti-GoS armed groups are also present in the Idlib area.

For further information on human rights violations committed by various anti-government armed groups and their relevance as potential exclusion grounds, see 8. Exclusion.