Turkish-backed militia, jihadists agree to fight Syrian forces in Idlib

Turkish-backed Syrian militia agreed to fight alongside a jihadist organisation against the Syrian government in the war-torn northwestern province of Idlib, BBC Turkish reported on Tuesday.

The Syrian National Army (SNA), the Turkey-backed umbrella organisation of rebel groups previously known as the Free Syrian Army, reached a deal with the Al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) to battle together against forces loyal to Damascus in Idlib, the last major rebel-held enclave in Syria, BBC Turkish said.

The SNA has sent almost a thousand fighters to the region, the BBC said, citing Youssef Hammoud, a spokesman for the group. 

Turkey, which already hosts some 3.6 million Syrian refugees, made a deal with Russia in September 2018 to prevent another wave of massive refugee flows from Idlib, which is home to some three million people including many displaced by Syria's civil war.

The Turkish-Russian agreement aimed at establishing a de-escalation zone in Idlib and requires that Turkey rein in extremist armed groups like the HTS. But the group significantly expanded its territory after the agreement was signed, provoking Syrian government forces to launch an offensive in the region in late April, with air support from Moscow.