Leader of Jaysh al-Islam, Zahran Alloush reportedly killed in Russian airstrike

Zahran Alloush

The leader of one of the most powerful Syrian rebel groups has been reported to have been killed in a Russian airstrike near the suburbs of Damascus.

His death was first reported by Reuters yesterday news citing two rebel sources.

The Syrian state news agency said Alloush was killed in eastern Ghouta where Jaysh al-Islam is in control.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said aircraft targeted a meeting of Jaysh al-Islam’s leadership in eastern Ghouta, killing Alloush and five other senior leaders.

If the reports are true, the death of Alloush will be a major blow to the opposition.

The fact that the airstrikes targeted a meeting of the group’s leadership represents an intelligence coup for the Syrian government and its foreign backer, Russia, which has led the reconnaissance and surveillance efforts since it intervened on behalf of Bashar al-Assad’s regime back in October.

“The news has reached us, that is God’s will and we pray that God has mercy on him,” said a source in Jaysh al-Fateh, the largest rebel coalition which includes the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria Jabhat al-Nusra.

It was initially unclear whether Alloush was killed in a Russian or Syrian airstrike, but rebel sources confirmed that the airstrike was carried out by a Russian warplane.

The Russians have launched over 5,000 raids since its intervention began.

The rebel sources told The Guardian that Russian planes fired at least 10 missiles at a secret headquarters of the group, which is the largest rebel faction in the area and has about 15,000 to 20,000 fighters.

One of the rebels said the group had chosen one of its top military commanders, Abu Hammam al Buwaidani, as its new head.

Labib al Nahhas, a senior figure in the Ahrar al-Sham group said: “Alloush’s martyrdom should be a turning point in the history of the revolution and rebel groups should realise they are facing a war of extermination and uprooting by Putin’s regime.”

Yarmouk

The Assad regime is seeking to expand its sphere of control in the vicinity of Damascus, and has allegedly reached an agreement with ISIS in the Yarmouk refugee camp in the south of the capital.

The SOHR said the government had agreed to the plan, brokered by the UN, which would see families of militants, wounded militants and civilians leave before ISIS depart the long-embattled neighbourhood.

It was the latest in a series of attempts to broker local ceasefires in an effort to bring about a nationwide halt to the fighting.

Earlier this month, fighters in al-Waer, a district in Homs that was held by the opposition, evacuated the area in a ceasefire agreement that brought much needed humanitarian aid.

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