For the lives of other deceased officials of the Islamic State-linked Jaysh Khalid bin al-Waleed:
Abu Hazim Tawheed also went by at least two other kunyas: Abu Bakr al-Hazim and Abu Hazim Abdullah. Like many other notable figures in Jaysh Khalid bin al-Waleed, he was not originally from the Yarmouk Basin. In fact, he was originally from the town of Qasiba in Quneitra province. The town has approximately 6000-7000 inhabitants. The inhabitants, who mainly work in agriculture, are primarily from the al-Hazumin branch of the al-Nu'aim tribe. Families of note in Qasiba:
Abu Hazim Tawheed's real name was Ahmad Shibli. His real name in full, according to a media activist from Qasiba, was Ahmad Shibli al-Awad, while a source from the nearby village of Qarqas relates that his full name was Ahmad Shibli al-Khamis al-Hashish. He was born in around 1986 according to the source from Qasiba. Prior to the civil war, he was involved with a brother of his in running a service taxi line between Khan Arnabeh (located in Quneitra province) and Damascus. The source from Qarqas adds that in addition to the service taxi business, Abu Hazim Tawheed was working in a vegetable market in Beirut prior to the civil war. As far as I have been able to ascertain, he was not Salafi prior to the civil war. There is no evidence that he studied at university or even completed high school.
Abu Hazim Tawheed
Abu Hazim Tawheed's path through various factions broadly seems to parallel the path of Abu Hamza Tawheed, to whom Abu Hazim Tawheed paid particular tribute in the aftermath of his death. After the civil war broke out, Abu Hazim Tawheed initially became involved with the Free Syrian Army (FSA)-brand group Liwa al-Sabteen. He was wounded in rebel battles against regime forces in Quneitra at the end of January 2014, after which he went to Jordan to receive treatment, spending some 7-8 months there. When he initially returned to Syria following his treatment in Jordan, he had to rely on crutches to walk.
By late 2014 or early 2015, Abu Hazim Tawheed had joined Ahrar al-Sham, apparently becoming involved with the Ahrar al-Jowlan faction that had Islamic State sympathizers in its ranks. He subsequently joined Jama'at Bayt al-Maqdis al-Islamiya. It was around the beginning of 2016 that I first got to know of Abu Hazim Tawheed, as he sent me a friend request on Facebook under the name of Abu Bakr al-Hazim. I presume he found me via 'People You May Know' on Facebook.
A photo of Abu Hazim Tawheed posing in front of a Jama'at Bayt al-Maqdis al-Islamiya flag. Uploaded to a Facebook profile of his in January 2016
At the time, I had been looking into the question of whether Jama'at Bayt al-Maqdis al-Islamiya was linked to the Islamic State. Indeed, some observers, including some analysts in Israeli army intelligence, portrayed it as a Palestinian jihadist front group for the Islamic State. These rumours were partly based on the group's name (referring to Jerusalem) and the similarity of the group's flag design to that of the Islamic State's flag.
When I initially communicated with Abu Hazim Tawheed (then a member of Jama'at Bayt al-Maqdis al-Islamiya) at the beginning of 2016, he denied that Jama'at Bayt al-Maqdis al-Islamiya was under allegiance to the Islamic State. He also denied that the group was Palestinian, pointing out that its ranks were primarily composed of people from Deraa and Quneitra. Indeed, the case of Abu Hazim Tawheed demonstrates that the rumours about Jama'at Bayt al-Maqdis al-Islamiya were largely wrong. By March 2016, Abu Hazim Tawheed had left Jama'at Bayt al-Maqdis al-Islamiya. Along with a contingent of fellow defectors, he had gone to the Yarmouk Basin to join what was then Liwa Shuhada' al-Yarmouk, which had links with the Islamic State since at least the latter half of 2014. A reader who has followed my reports may note that I cited a Jama'at Bayt al-Maqdis al-Islamiya defector in a report I did on jihadist groups located near Israel's northern border in May 2016. That defector was Abu Hazim Tawheed. As he had explained, Jama'at Bayt al-Maqdis al-Islamiya suffered internal fragmentation in February 2016 over a decision by the leadership to join an operations room with some FSA groups. Much of the rank-and-file objected to this decision and threatened to leave if it was not reversed. The leadership did not change its mind. Of those who left the group, some like Abu Hazim Tawheed went to join Liwa Shuhada' al-Yarmouk. That Abu Hazim Tawheed went to the Yarmouk Basin did not really come as a surprise to me. In fact, I had already developed suspicions that he was an Islamic State sympathizer, given the mutual friends we had on Facebook.
Abu Hazim Tawheed became suspicious of me later on in spring 2016 (prior to the formation of Jaysh Khalid bin al-Waleed, as I recall). He was curious as to why I asked him many questions, and he had noticed various photos I shared on my Facebook page, He thus called me on Facebook messenger. He explained his own outlook, saying that he had been with Jama'at Bayt al-Maqdis al-Islamiya but left the group as it did not implement the ruling of God's law (tahkim shar' Allah), though he denied that he had an allegiance pledge to the Islamic State. It should be noted that this line of rhetoric was long employed by Liwa Shuhada' al-Yarmouk: namely, denying an allegiance pledge to the Islamic State while claiming to work towards implementing the ruling of God's law. Even so, Faruq al-Adel- a member of Jaysh Khalid bin al-Waleed- explained to me immediately after Abu Hazim Tawheed's death in August 2017 that Abu Hazim Tawheed had given allegiance to the Islamic State "one and a half years ago": that is, around the time that he left Jama'at Bayt al-Maqdis al-Islamiya and joined Liwa Shuhada' al-Yarmouk.
Abu Hazim Tawheed remained in Liwa Shuhada' al-Yarmouk and became a member of Jaysh Khalid bin al-Waleed, which was formed in late May 2016. It is not wholly clear to me what exactly his role was. Though direct contact between me and him ended by mid-2016, he generally seemed to have a lot of time for posting on Facebook and other Facebook activities. Indeed, I vividly remember when he clicked 'like' for a photo I took while on a trip to Japan in October 2016. The most frequent description of his role that I have heard is that he was a مسؤول تسليح ('arming official') in Jaysh Khalid bin al-Waleed, suggesting that he was responsible for weapon procurement and distribution. Though Abu Hazim Tawheed frequently liked to post about the concept of tawheed (Islamic monotheism), Faruq al-Adel denied to me that Abu Hazim Tawheed was a Shari'i official in Jaysh Khalid bin al-Waleed, explaining his posts about tawheed as follows: "This is our obligation: to spread tawheed and get people to know it." He also denied to me that Abu Hazim Tawheed worked in ribat (manning a frontline and being on the lookout for enemy movements, incursions etc.).
Abu Hazim Tawheed had a fondness for posing with his back turned to the camera. Photo uploaded to a Facebook page of his in summer 2016.
A photo of Abu Hazim Tawheed uploaded to a Facebook page of his in August 2016.
Abu Hazim Tawheed
Abu Hazim Tawheed was killed in the afternoon of 22 August 2017, in what was apparently a coalition and/or Israeli strike. At least two other members of Jaysh Khalid bin al-Waleed were killed in that strike: Abu al-Abbas and Abu Ruqayya, who are otherwise unknown individuals to me so far.