Idlib Buffer Zone Cleared of Heavy Weapons

Clay Curtis
October 12, 2018

According to the agreement, heavy weapons, tanks, rocket systems and mortars belonging to rebel groups would be withdrawn by October 10, while Russian Federation and Turkey will conduct joint patrols in the demilitarized zone.

Speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, Yaser Ferhan, a member of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, said the weapons' withdrawal manifests the success of the alliance that the opposition made with Turkey.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Monday that almost all heavy weapons have been removed from much of the area around Idlib.

"Our forces will remain on the front lines in defense positions armed with light and medium weapons", al-Mustafa said.

A local source close to HTS said Ankara's actions demonstrated that neither Turkey, Russia, nor fellow regime ally Iran plan to break the deal.

HTS, jihadists from the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) and current Al-Qaeda outfit Hurras al-Deen control more than two-thirds of the planned buffer zone.

The main jihadist group in the Idlib area, Tahrir al-Sham, has yet to comment publicly on the agreement.

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"It is making the assessment that Turkey will allow it to continue to operate in northwest Syria, so long as HTS keeps a low profile", he added.

In recent weeks, Turkey has sent military convoy in the province of Idleb and its soldiers are supposed to patrol in the future "demilitarized zone".

A series of offensives earlier this year saw a succession of longtime militant strongholds surrender and a similar Russia-back assault had been expected in Idlib before the truce deal was announced last month.

Despite progress in implementing the terms of the deal, Assad on Sunday said the arrangement would not become permanent.

"The Russians want to "freeze" the war in the west of Syria, and addressing the reconstruction of the areas under the control of Assad", he said.

"Assad might want to reconquer Idlib, but for now he does not have a better option than this deal", he said. The Syrian war has left more than 360,000 people dead since it began in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.

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