Northern Syria’s pro-Turkey rebels begin withdrawing under deal
Pro-Turkey rebels in Syria on Sunday began withdrawing from areas included in the demilitarized buffer zone agreed upon between Turkey and Russia earlier this month, as they attempt to avert a large-scale military assault on the country's last major rebel-held province, France 24 news website reported.
The Russian and Turkish presidents on Sept. 17, agreed to create a 15 to 20-kilometer demilitarised buffer zone between Syrian and rebel forces in Idlib and joint patrols to enforce the compromise during their meeting in Sochi. The deal arrived amid vows from Syrian President to take back from rebels every inch of the country. Russia demanded a withdrawal of all radical fighters" from Idlib, while Turkey has stressed its significance in preventing a humanitarian crisis.''
Fighters from the Faylaq al-Sham group began pulling out of areas in the southern countryside of Aleppo and the western suburbs of Aleppo city, the site said, quoting Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Faylaq al-Sham has some 8,500 to 10,000 fighters who are part of a Turkish-backed alliance known as the National Liberation Front (NLF), it said, noting that the NLF was formed in August and merged Islamist groups Ahrar al-Sham and Nureddine al-Zinki with other Turkey-backed rebel factions.
While the NLF - acknowledged as the second most powerful group in northern Syria - controls the rest of Idlib province but is also remains active in Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces.
Meanwhile, Russia-backed Syrian regime forces have massed around Idlib province in recent weeks, in a move that has sparked fears of an attack to reclaim the opposition stronghold.