One remarkable development brought out by the cessation of hostilities in Syria is it has exposed how fragile support for Jabhat al-Nusra is within Syria. Jabhat al-Nusra is Al Qaeda's armed wing in Syria.
During the cessation of hostilities Syrian protesters went out to the streets in Maarat al-Numan waving the Syrian revolutionary flag and chanting slogans that were contrary to Jabhat al-Nusra's ideology.
It appears that Jabhat al-Nusra did not like this and tried to get the protesters to use their flags and slogans but the protesters rejected this attempt to co-opt their protests.
Jabhat al-Nusra lashed out and attacked and seized control of the headquarters of the 13th Division, a rebel militia aligned with the Free Syrian Army. But it seems Jabhat al-Nusra went in over their heads and this raid instead provoked the people to protest against Jabhat al-Nusra and even burn down their headquarters and freeing prisoners from Jabhat al-Nusra's clutches.
|Jabhat al-Nusra HQ in Maarat al-Numan burnt by Syrian protesters.|
Charles Lister says the following about these protests against Jabhat al-Nusra.
While al-Qaeda may have successfully exploited the Syrian crisis in order to establish a concrete foothold in the heart of the Levant, its affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra lay particularly vulnerable when faced with constrained levels of violence. Although militarily preeminent amid total war with the Assad regime and Russia’s devastating and indiscriminate air bombardment, relative peace saw Jabhat al-Nusra become virtually impotent overnight. ...
“Maarat was a turning point for us in Idlib,” a prominent FSA leader told me. “The people have been emboldened. The Friday protests proved that our revolution is stronger than ever and al-Qaeda cannot stop that.” (Charles Lister, Jabhat al-Nusra Oversteps Mark with Idlib Crackdown, March 14, 2016.)So it seems extremists such as Jabhat al-Nusra can only maintain their influence in the crucible of war. But once peace comes very few want anything to do with them.
May this most terrible conflict in Syria soon come to an end. The courageous Syrian people deserve to live in peace and safety.