On August 23, 2023, the Guardians of Religion/ Hurras al-Din Organization, an Al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, released a succinct statement titled 'We Are the Avengers of Blood.' The statement conveyed a variety of messages aimed at different parties, including the local communities, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), and other factions active in Idlib. In no uncertain terms, the statement called for bringing to justice those termed as "inside agents" within HTS, alleging they serve the interests of the US-led International Coalition forces.
.In a statement as such, Hurras al-Din issued a clarion call to its grassroots base, stressing that it remains an active, albeit covert, force within the HTS-held areas. Thus, the message serves as a rallying cry to all who have been affected by "traitors’ acts" who are within HTS itself.
The statement issued by Hurras al-Din unveils a strategic intent to square off against HTS—at least in the battleground of words and media, for now. In doing so, it's striving to solidify its own legitimacy against the perceived illegitimacy of HTS. This is particularly noteworthy as the latter has repeatedly endeavored to weave its own tapestry of jihadist legitimacy through a series of breakaways and ideological shifts—from pledging allegiance to Al-Qaeda to embracing local regionalism. In stark contrast, Hurras al-Din unapologetically brandish their jihadist credentials, while simultaneously extending an olive branch for collaboration with all factions, without sidelining any.
Arguably the most striking element of this very statement is the group’s self-portrayal as the “Avengers of Blood.” This is a strategic gambit to solidify their own standing as legitimate actors in contrast to HTS’ leadership. The insinuation is clear: they are calling out leaders within HTS who are known to collaborate with foreign forces or even act as informants for the international coalition. By sharing coordinates, these individuals are indirectly held responsible for making key jihadist figures—like Abu Firas al-Suri (Syrian), Abu Khadijah al-Urdoni (Jordanian) (Bilal Khreisat), and Abu al-Khayr al-Masri (Egyptian), and others vulnerable to targeted strikes.
In urging accountability for those it brands as 'traitors,' the organization is clearly doubling down on its efforts to fortify its own legitimacy while attempting to regain a credible foothold in the region. It's apparent that the group is keen on presenting alternative strategies for handling the leadership of HTS, operating on a 'tit-for-tat' principle—be it through targeted assassinations or judicial means. As such, the organization of Hurras al-Din is extending a veiled call to arms to its supporters in the north, as well as to other factions, beckoning them to join forces in confronting what it perceives to be the corrupt and disloyal conduct of HTS’ leadership.
While Hurras al-Din appears to be widening its outreach to attract factions disenchanted with HTS, or those among its ranks seeking more militant action against the regime outside existing agreements, such moves may well be met with silence. Historical precedents indicate a reluctance among most moderate opposition groups to shoulder the moral and tactical burden of coordinating with an entity like Al-Qaeda, which is flagged on global terrorism watchlists.
In essence, the release of the statement serves as a strategic play to assert the authentic legitimacy of Hurras Al-Din organization, while attempting to reclaim its tactical footprint in the region, a presence that has been stifled by HTS. As such, Hurras Al-Din aims to leverage the current volatile landscape—marked by mounting popular dissent against the leadership of HTS, escalating factional disputes within the latter’s ranks, and revelations of certain leaders' collaborations with international coalitions and other global players—which has culminated in targeted assaults on key figures in local and migrant jihadist factions.