Soon after the formation of the 'So Be Steadfast' jihadist operations room in northwest Syria, a drone strike (likely American) took out two commanders in the al-Qa'ida-loyalist group Hurras al-Din: Qassam al-Urduni and Bilal al-San'ani. The former is the more renowned of the two, as he had been a close associate of Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi and was reputedly Hurras al-Din's military commander.
Was the assassination linked to the formation of the new operations room? Did Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) leak information on the whereabouts of the two men? These are interesting lines of thought but ultimately speculative. It should also be noted that at least one of the more well-known pro-HTS Telegram accounts- Osama bin Abdallah (aka Osama al-Sahrawi)- and HTS' Abu al-Fatah al-Farghali mourned the killing of Qassam al-Urduni and Bilal al-San'ani.
Below is the statement of mourning issued by Jama'at Ansar al-Islam (an ally of Hurras al-Din) for Qassam al-Urduni and Bilal al-San'ani. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
God Almighty has said in His revelation:
'And among the believers are men who have been true to what they pledged to God, so among them are those who fulfilled their vow and among them are those who await, and they have not altered anything'- (Surat al-Ahzab 23).
From the esteemed soil of Jordan to Baghdad, so a Tora-Bora in hijra and jihad.
And from the darkness of the prisons among the Rafidites, returned and restored to the land of al-Sham,
He never wavered in resolve, no, and he did not take delight in slumber,
While the dignity of Tawheed was being violated, the honour usurped and the light of truth adulterated by the blackness.
And he did not become exhausted and did not lose enthusiasm as he was keen for death, until he obtained the desired thing.
He is Abu al-Hassan Sheikh Qassam al-Urduni, born al-Hassani by lineage. He spent his life between hijra, jihad and disappearance in the prisons of the Tawagheet and Rafidites until his time came to an end in the blessed land of al-Sham, the land of jihad, return and gathering. And what an end it is: that it should be a thorn enraging the enemies of God and they find no way out of fighting face-to-face except in assassination. Indeed it is an elevated rank before death, and we sing the praises of his companion the brother Bilal al-San'ani al-Ansari. May God accept our two brothers among the martyrs and raise their rank in the highest.
And we say to our brothers in the Hurras al-Din organisation and the family of the martyrs, may God make great your reward and make good your mourning, and forgive us and them. And indeed the Ummah of Islam is as the Prophet (SAWS) described. It is a productive Ummah and there are still in it lions roaring while the time of their descent to the field has not yet come, and [he said] that the enemies of God have failed and lost, and the outcome is for the pious.
And God's blessings and salutations be upon our sayyid Muhammad, his family and companions.
Your brothers in Jama'at Ansar al-Islam
Tuesday 24 Shawwal 1441 AH
Corresponding to 16 June 2020 CE.