Turkey says Idlib demilitarised zone 'established' following rebel withdrawal

Turkey says Idlib demilitarised zone 'established' following Syrian rebel withdrawal
2 min read
10 October, 2018
Syrian rebel fighters have pulled out of a buffer zone in Idlib province, as part of a Turkish-Russian sponsored deal.
Syrian rebels have pulled tanks from Idlib's frontlines [AFP]
Syrian rebel forces have withdrawn heavy weaponry from a buffer zone in Idlib, with Turkey announcing the establishment of a demilitarised area on the opposition province's borders with regime territories.

It comes a month after a deal was struck between Russia and Turkey to avert a planned regime offensive on the opposition province, which required the exclusion of rebel heavy weaponry from the front-lines.

Rebel fighters pulled tanks and artillery from the buffer zone on Monday, a day after extremist-linked groups did the same, according to AFP and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Wednesday.

The Turkish-backed National Liberation Front fighters had agreed to withdraw heavy weaponry from the region within a month of a truce being reached with the regime, via Russia and Turkey.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an armed group with links to al-Qaeda, has done the same, but are required to also pull their fighters from areas bordering the Syrian regime's frontlines.

Russia claimed that 1,000 fighters left the area in a sign the deal to halt the planned offensive on Idlib was holding, although HTS militants are still reportedly in the buffer zone region.

Russia and Turkey have been on opposing sides of the war in Yemen, which broke out in 2011 following the regime's brutal suppression of peaceful protests.

The war has killed at least 500,000 people, the vast majority civilians from regime bombing and shelling.

Russia joined the war in September 2015, backing Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey has provided support to the Syrian rebels.

Ankara also has a military presence in Idlib and northwest Syria.

Despite the agreement between the rebels and regime, Assad said the government will eventually retake the opposition province leading to new fears of a planned offensive on Idlib.