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Turkey's free zone: Nusra begins withdrawal from Aleppo Open in fullscreen

Rami Sweid

Turkey's free zone: Nusra begins withdrawal from Aleppo

Nusra Front begins withdrawal from Aleppo's northern countryside [Fadi al-Halabi/AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 6 August, 2015

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Nusra Front forces have started to withdraw from the Aleppo countryside handing over bases to the Free Syrian Army as Turkey prepares for a "free zone" in northern Syria.
Al-Nusra Front have started a withdrawal from military posts in Aleppo's northern countryside, according to sources close to al-Araby al-Jadeed.

This comes in preparation for the establishment of a Turkish-led buffer zone spanning much of northern Syria. 

The safe zone territory will be used as battlefront to fight against Islamic State group (IS, formerly ISIS) militants who have waged war on opposition forces over the past year.

Sources say that fighters from al-Qaeda's Syrian wing began to withdrawal from their posts on Wednesday evening after a meeting between representatives of the group and the main Syrian opposition factions operating in the area.

It was alleged yesterday in a leaked report that Turkey was against the presence of Nusra Front and the YPG (People's Protection Units - Kurdish) in the safe zone.

A source in the field who is close to the Levant Front - the largest faction in the Syria's opposition in the northern Aleppo countryside - said that Nusra Front handed over its bases in the village of Harjala to the rebel group on Wednesday night.

This effectively gives the Levant Front control over posts near the Syrian-Turkish border that are on the frontlines in the war between the armed opposition and IS.

Sources for al-Araby al-Jadeed said that Nusra Front also agreed to withdraw from the villages of Hiwar Kalas, Shmareen, and Bragheed - east of Azaz - along with its bases in Azaz. Syrian opposition forces will take full control of these area.

Since the start of last year, Nusra Front forces have taken a leading role in the fight against IS in Aleppo's northern countryside, alongside Syrian opposition forces.

However, Nusra's attack last week on the Free Syrian Army's 30th Division base - a group which has received training from US forces as Turkish military camps - has increased tensions between Nusra Front and Syrian opposition forces.

Turkish officials yesterday said that the establishment of the safe zone is "only a matter of time", and the territory would span 140 kilometres in length and 50 kilometres deep. 

This area should guarantee the protection of civilians and opposition groups operating in the area from IS militants.

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