Syria says it's ready to fight for Idlib if jihadists reject deal

16 Octobre, 2018, 20:41 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • A Turkey-backed Syrian rebel-fighter patrols in al-Bab Syria where aid agencies warned of dire humanitarian consequences if a Russia Turkey deal creating a buffer zone is not implemented

A Syrian rebel fighter sits on a hill overlooking regime-held areas in northwestern countryside of Aleppo province.

The fighters failed to meet the October 15 deadline for them to withdraw from a planned buffer zone around Syria's last opposition stronghold.

Under a deal reached by opposition backer Turkey and regime ally Russian Federation last month, rebels and jihadists alike were meant to have pulled out all heavy arms from the horseshoe-shaped zone by October 10.

Idlib and adjacent areas are the last stronghold of rebels who rose against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011.

Tahrir al-Sham, an extremist alliance spearheaded by al-Qaida's former Syrian affiliate previously known as the Nusra Front, signaled Sunday it would abide by the terms of the deal to prevent an Assad regime offensive on the opposition-held enclave, but the midnight deadline passed without visible withdrawal from the buffer zone. However, according to Turkish sources at least 1,000 of the 5,000 HTS militants thought to operate in the buffer zone had left.

"We have not monitored any withdrawals by jihadist fighters at all from areas falling in the planned buffer zone", said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

"We value the efforts of all those striving - at home and overseas - to protect the liberated area and prevent its invasion and the perpetration of massacres in it", the terror group said in its statement, published via social media.

"But at the same time, we warn of the deceitfulness of the Russian occupier and against any trust in its intentions", the group added.

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All factions in the planned demilitarised area were to hand over their heavy weapons by October 10, and radical groups were expected to withdraw by October 15, according to the agreement.

Fighters with the Free Syrian army leave a cave where they live, in the outskirts of the northern town of Jisr al-Shughur, Syria, west of the city of Idlib.

And deadly mortar rounds fired late Saturday from the buffer zone appeared to indicate the first part of the deal was not fully implemented either. "Russian Federation is monitoring and following the situation", he added.

HTS had likely "tried to gain time by neither explicitly refusing nor accepting the deal" between Russian Federation and Turkey, he said.

"HTS emphasizes its responsibility and flexibility (within limits), which seemingly adds up to a tacit acceptance of the Sochi deal", he wrote.

Hurras al-Deen has publicly rejected the agreement, although it apparently withdrew its heavy arms from the area last week.

A senior commander in the Free Syrian Army, who refused to be named, told MEE that the Turkish military is massing in the Turkish region of Yayladagi, close to rebel positions in north Latakia and Jisr al-Shughur.

A Russian-Turkish truce agreement reached almost a month ago for the region of Idlib gave "radical fighters" until 15 October to leave a proposed demilitarised area between government and opposition forces.

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