Jabhat al-Nusra's July 28 announcement of its new name and avatar, the Fateh al-Sham Front ("The Victory in Al-Sham Front"), does not mean the terrorist group has formally split ties with al-Qaida, an Israeli intelligence report warns.
Jabhat al-Nusra (also known as the Nusra Front) pledged allegiance to al-Qaida in 2013.
In a video aired first on Al Jazeera, Abu Mohammad al-Julani announced "complete cancellation of all operations under the name of Jabhat al-Nusra" and said his group "has no affiliation to any external entity," signaling a split from al-Qaida. The move is designed to make it difficult for the U.S.-led coalition and Russia to carry out air strikes against the terrorist group following its break with al-Qaida, the report from the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) said.
The U.S. and Russia recently agreed to cooperate in fighting against the al-Nusra Front in Syria.
Fateh al-Sham may find it easier to collaborate with other Syrian rebel organizations fighting to overthrow the Bashar al-Assad regime. Other rebel groups were unwilling to collaborate with Jabhat al-Nusra for fear of becoming targets of airstrikes because of the terror group's affiliation with al-Qaida.
But the split seems more cosmetic, the ITIC report said, noting that "Fateh al-Sham Front continues to adhere to Al-Qaeda's Salafist-jihadi ideology (as reflected in the charter published by the Fateh al -Sham front)."
Al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri is believed to have blessed the move from Jabhat al-Nusrah to Fateh al-Sham. During his announcement, al-Julani praised and thanked al-Qaida leaders for their support. "Your blessed leadership constituted and still constitutes a model for preferring the interests of the Muslims over the interests of each individual organization," a translation of the announcement read.