Zahran Alloush, a top Syrian rebel leader and head of the most powerful insurgent group in the eastern suburbs of Damascus was confirmed dead in a video statement by the group.
He was killed in an aerial raid that targeted the group’s headquarters, rebel sources and the Syrian army said on Friday. The death of Zahran Alloush, 44, head of Jaysh al Islam, is a big blow to rebel control of the rural eastern suburban area of Damascus known as al Ghouta, the rebels said.
Several rebel leaders have been killed since Russia commenced an aerial campaign on Sept. 30 in support of its ally Assad, although Moscow has insisted that it is concentrating its attacks on Islamic State.
Jaysh al Islam has successfully been running the administration of the Eastern Ghouta area since 2013, when the group was formed from an amalgamation of scores of rebel brigades.
"Thank God who made the killing for his sake well and martyrdom a co-option."
The rebel sources said that in the raid 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, according to Western intelligence.
“Alloush’s martyrdom should be a turning point in the history of the revolution and rebel groups should realize they are facing an war of extermination and uprooting by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s regime,” said Labib al Nahhas, a senior figure in the main Ahrar al-Sham rebel group.
Alloush was killed while holding a meeting with other rebel leaders in the Marj area of al-Ghouta, which has been the target of a major Syrian assault in the last few weeks, the rebels said.
Al-Ghouta has been under siege for years and has been the target of some of the most intensive raids on civilians living in the once heavily populated area.
A chemical gas attack in Ghouta in August 2013 that the United States said killed 1,400 people and which the West blamed on forces loyal to Assad prompted the threat of Western military intervention in the country.
Much of the capital remains firmly in President Assad’s control.