Syrian rebel alliance denies withdrawal from demilitarized zone

DAMASCUS, Khalil Hamlo and Amr Mostafa (dpa)– An alliance of Syrian rebel groups has denied that any opposition faction has withdrawn from the southern Aleppo countryside as part of a Russian-Turkish deal to establish a buffer zone in the north-western province of Idlib.
"We categorically deny that Failaq al-Sham has withdrawn from some of its positions in the southern and western Aleppo countryside," a military commander with the National Front for Liberation said on Sunday.

The commander added that all fighters from Failaq al-Sham or the other factions are still stationed at their posts.
Earlier in the day, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Failaq al-Sham began pulling out its fighters and heavy weapons from the southern Aleppo countryside, adjacent to Idlib, which is part of the demilitarized zone.
It quoted sources as saying that the withdrawal comes at a request from the Turkish side.
Earlier this month, Russia and Turkey agreed to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Idlib to separate government forces from rebel fighters based there.
The zone is due to be set up by October 15 and to be 15-20 kilometres deep, with troops from Russia and Turkey conducting coordinated patrols.
The deal comes after the Syrian government concentrated troops in the north-west, with the intent of unseating 10,000 extremist fighters from Idlib.
Idlib is home to 3 million civilians and is largely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an Islamist alliance led by an al-Qaeda-affiliated group.

Monday, October 1st 2018
Khalil Hamlo and Amr Mostafa (dpa)

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