The commander of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formerly an al-Qaeda affiliate known as Nusra Front, has appeared in new photographs showing him in the countryside of Hama province in Syria.
Photographs of Abu Mohammed al-Jolani were first shared on Sunday by Syrian activist and journalist Taher al-Omar. Al Arabiya English could not independently verify the exact location of where al-Jolani was photographed.
A video seen by Al Arabiya English shows al-Omar asking al-Jolani about the “barbaric campaign of the Russian planes” flying over them.
Photographs of al-Jolani come just days after HTS lost control over the town of Kafr Nabudah north of the province to Syrian armed forces.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that Syrian government troops in recent days have gained new ground, mostly in the Hama province.
The Observatory said government forces were now in control of nine villages in northern Syria between Idlib and Hama forming an L shape at the far southern corner of the rebel stronghold. The villages include the strategic village of Kfar Nabudah and the elevated Qalaat Madiq, giving the government troops advantage over the insurgents.
Fighting in the area, which began on April 30, has been the worst breach of a September cease-fire brokered by Russia and Turkey.
Over 150,000 people have been displaced by the latest wave of violence inside the enclave, which is home to three million people and spans most of Idlib province and part of Hama in the country’s northwest corner.
The World Food Program said the fighting forced it to suspend aid distribution to over 47,000 people.
HTS leader al-Jolani appears in new photos near Syria’s Hama countryside