The 13th Division (Arabic: الفرقة 13) is a Syrian rebel group sanctioned by the Syrian National Council. It was among the first armed Syrian opposition groups to receive U.S.-made BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles. The group's leader Ahmad al-Sa’oud said during an interview that the missiles were provided by the Friends of Syria, which also (according to al-Sa'oud) provided training on how to use the advanced weaponry. According to a spokesperson for the FSA's Supreme Military Council, the 13th Division is funded by sources within Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
The 13th Division originated in March 2012 under the name ‘Liwa Ibad al-Rahman’ and grew that year to 1,000 men according to its leader Ahmad al-Saoud. In 2013 the group was incorporated into the Free Syrian Army as the 13th Division.
In December 2013, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) overran a Division 13 base in Kafr Nabl, seizing ammunition and weaponry. This came after a history of clashes between the two groups. The following day, Lieutenant Colonel Ahmad Al-Sa’oud was ambushed and kidnapped in Taftanaz by ISIS while he was trying to negotiate for their return. He was released after two weeks. The group is currently fighting the Syrian government and ISIS.
The group fought in Khan al-Asal, the Rashideen neighbourhood, and the Research Sciences Centre in Aleppo. In Idlib and Hama Governorates, the 13th Division fought at Mork, Khan Shaykhun, Heish, Qumeis, Baboulin, Wadi Al-Deif military base and Al-Hamdiyyeh military base.
On 6 May 2015, along with 13 other Aleppo-based groups, joined the Fatah Halab joint operations room.
On 18 September 2016 one of the 13th Division commanders, Abdul Karim Alito, was killed in action during the 2016 al-Bab offensive. Later that month, the 13th Division, along with the Mountain Hawks Brigade and the Northern Division, formed the Free Idlib Army.
In November 2014, the 13th Division and the al-Nusra Front clashed in Jabal Zawiya as part of the al-Nusra Front-SRF/Hazzm Movement conflict.
On 13 March 2016, the al-Nusra Front and Jund al-Aqsa seized the headquarters of the 13th Division after an overnight battle for control of Maarrat al-Nu'man. Division 13 was involved in a truce with the Syrian army since February 27. Several fighters have deserted before the conflict with the Nusra began. Division 13 has confirmed that al-Nusra and Jund al-Aqsa captured all of their weapons. According to social media activists in support of the Syrian opposition, Jabhat al-Nusra attacked Division 13 after local demonstrations used the Syrian independence flag, rather than the black flag of jihad.
According to a report released by the Free Syrian Army, Jabhat al-Nusra and Jund al-Aqsa attacked their bases in Ma’arat al-Nu’man, killing 4 of their combatants and wounding as many as 20 others during a fierce battle between the groups. The Division 13 members stated that they could not hold their ground against al-Qaeda militants, so they surrendered two of their storage facilities that allegedly stored U.S. manufactured TOW anti-tank missiles as well as seizing armored vehicles, a tank, and other arms.
Experts have stated that ultimately, “There will be localized clashes, but not necessarily full-blown civil war. In Maarat al-Numan it’s easier to take on Nusra as Division 13 is stronger and there isn’t a Jaysh al-Fatah administration”.
On 18 July 2016, the al-Nusra Front was accused of kidnapping Zaher al-Ahmad, the commander of the division’s 56th Infantry Brigade en route from Maarat al-Numan to Aleppo.
On 30 September, Ahmad al-Sa'oud openly threatened al-Nusra on social media that the 13th Division has "no choice" but to "take revenge for the blood of its members", accusing people of "spreading lies and fabricating charges" against the 13th Division in order to ignite conflict.
In March 2014, the 13th Division counted 1,800 men according to its leader Ahmad al-Saoud, split into 10 companies, with another 200 in support roles.
According to its leader, the group supports the idea of returning all Syrian land occupied by Israel to Syria.