Protesters gathered in the town of Atmeh in Syria’s opposition-held Idlib province on June 23 to demand the release of a locally based British aid worker arrested by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the Islamist militia formerly known as the Nusra Front that now controls much of the province. Tauqir Sharif, who has been based in Atmeh near the Turkish border since 2013, was detained by HTS earlier in the week in a raid on his home. Footage of the protest showed many women and children among dozens chanting and holding banners calling for Sharif to be freed, as they marched through the town. The crowd finally gathered outside the closed gates of a compound guarded by masked militiamen. Demonstrators also protested closure of education and other social services by HTS, chanting “We want schools to open.”
Sharif, a British Muslim, was working with a grassroots aid and media group called Live Updates from Syria, which both produces video reports from Idlib and provides humanitarian assistance to war widows in the province. His detention comes amid a crackdown by HTS on dissidents and rival factions in areas under its control. (Middle East Eye)
On June 14, the US joined the Assad regime and Russia in their bombardment of Idlib, carrying out a drone strike on the car of a suspected al-Qaeda operative. The targeted militant, named as Khaled al-Aruri, was said to be leader of Hurras al-Din, one of the Nusra breakaway factions that has maintained ties to al-Qaeda. (NYT) The Nusra Front officially broke ties with al-Qaeda when it was reorganized as HTS three years ago.