Syrians React to Recent Coalition Airstrikes
Fighters and civilians on the ground in Syria have begun voicing condemnation upon a wave of US airstrikes on November 6 targeting the Khorasan Group. Jihadist, Islamist, and other rebel groups and supporters alike have taken to condemning the airstrikes as attacks on the Syrian people and their fight against the regime.
A common perception among those in Syria is that US and coalition airstrikes have simultaneously weakened rebel forces and killed civilians while bolstering the Assad regime—a point jihadist and Islamist supporters have been echoing intensely. For example, user "Al Arabi," an IS supporter, tweeted on November 7:
Similarly, the account of "uygar aktas" tweeted of civilians killed in the airstrikes, characterizing them as a joint effort between Assad and the coalition:
Ahrar al-Sham, one of the constituent factions within the Islamic Front (IF), released two official statements on November 6 following coalition airstrikes on its headquarters. Within the first statement, the group condemned civilian deaths caused by the airstrikes and stated that the "criminal" Assad regime was the only party to benefit from them:
[The] airstrikes came in the hours of last night to hit several areas in the liberated countryside of Idlib, making victims of our family and people from among women, children, and civilians – that, in addition to the targeting of the headquarters of the Movement near Bab al-Hawa. The first indications point to the involvement of the international coalition in these strikes, from which none would benefit but the criminal regime.
In the same statement, the group also addressed recent conflicts between the Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF), a group backed by the US, and al-Nusra Front, stating that Ahrar al-Sham members were involved in the conflict against the SRF. The statement followed up by condemning any group taking assistance from "the enemy":
The current infighting between the Muslims does not justify leaping into the embrace of the enemy, as the desire to punish the criminals, restore the rights, and reveal the sowers of rumors cannot come by going over the revolutionary mujahid forces in our country and entering into infighting that is not in favor of the revolution.
On November 6, the Idlib provincial division of al-Nusra Front released photos on its Twitter account showing the damage and casualties brought by the coalition airstrikes. Pictures from the report showed destroyed buildings as well as dead children and elders.
This anger has also bled into the streets of Syria, wherein people have been protesting against the American-led airstrikes while supporting Islamist and jihadist groups, including al-Nusra Front. Related tweets included pictures of angry demonstrators in the Aleppo countryside, explained by one user as "A part of today's demonstrations that it denounces the assaults of the Crusader Coalition on the mujahideen and the civilians." In demonstrating , civilians (many of whom children) are seen holding up signs reading, "No for the Crusader Coalition in our land," "Death to America," "Nusra Front," and "Stop fighting us O Peoples of the world."
User "Abu Omar al-Akeedi" also tweeted photos of the protests along with the statement, "Forces of the Coalition are killing the Syrian People and ignores Da'ish [IS] and al-Assad!"
The airstrikes have also prompted further calls for unity between feuding groups—namely IS and al-Nusra Front. User Abu Sumaya Al-Khalidira, an al-Nusra Front supporter, called in a November 7 tweet for both IS and al-Nusra front to sort their differences out in an Islamic court. He tweeted:
Ahrar al-Sham, in the second of its November 6 releases, addressed the issue of infighting between rebel groups on the ground—most relevantly between al-Nusra Front and select groups within the FSA—and called for them to settle their disputes in an Islamic court.
Further messages from those on the ground in Syria—particularly jihadists and Islamists—have used the airstrikes as devices to perpetuate the idea of a US-led war on Islam. A November 6 tweet by Dutch jihadist "Israfil Yilmaz," to the same note as other jihadist accounts, reads, "I've always said, and I'm saying it again.This is not a war on State [IS],JN [al-nusra front],or any other group affiliated to this or that. This is war on Islam."