Last Update 23:0
Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Syrian jihadists cement grip, forcing deal on Idlib rebels

Reuters , Thursday 10 Jan 2019
HTS
File Photo: Islamist rebels from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham are seen outside the villages of al-Foua and Kefraya, Syria July 18, 2018 (Photo: Reuters)
Share/Bookmark
Views: 1806
Share/Bookmark
Views: 1806

Blacklisted jihadist fighters tightened their grip over Syria’s last major rebel-held region on Thursday after nine days of battle with Turkey-backed groups, putting a deal to prevent a massive army assault on the area in jeopardy.

The northwest of Syria near the Turkish border is the last part of the country still in the hands of fighters seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad, but control has been divided between jihadist factions and other rebels backed by Turkey.

On Thursday Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a jihadist group listed as terrorists by the United States, Turkey and others, forced factions from the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) to accept a peace deal recognizing civilian control by an HTS-backed administration.

The success of the jihadists in recent days raises doubt over the future of a deal agreed in September between Turkey and the Assad government’s main ally Russia to avert an army assault. The agreement requires banned jihadist groups to be expelled from a frontline buffer zone.

Much of the Idlib enclave is now controlled by HTS, which is spearheaded by the former Syrian offshoot of al Qaeda.

Under Thursday’s agreement, FSA groups accepted civilian control of some towns and villages by a body known as the Salvation Government which runs basic services in the city of Idlib and many towns that fall under HTS influence.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu acknowledged on Thursday it was not “so easy” to maintain the deal with Russia, but said so far it was being “implemented successfully”.

“The radical groups have mounted an attack against the moderate opposition. And of course we are taking the necessary precautions,” Cavusoglu said in an interview with broadcaster NTV.

A rebel official close to Turkey’s intelligence service said Ankara had played a key role in preventing the fighting from spreading further by pressing rebels to accept a deal.

HTS’s stranglehold over the area is raising fears among rebels and residents in the heavily populated province that Russian air strikes halted last year could resume.

The jihadists have allowed Turkish troops to deploy along the front lines as the Russia-Turkey deal demanded, but have not pulled out of the area themselves.

“The complete control of (HTS) will be a pretext for the regime and the Russians to end the Idlib deal, and this is the coming danger,” said Major Youssef Hamoud, spokesman for a Turkey-backed alliance of rebels called the National Army.

Some factions who fought against the jihadists under a different banner have now fled to an area under greater Turkish influence nearby.

Short link:

 

Email
 
Name
 
Comment's
Title
 
Comment
Ahram Online welcomes readers' comments on all issues covered by the site, along with any criticisms and/or corrections. Readers are asked to limit their feedback to a maximum of 1000 characters (roughly 200 words). All comments/criticisms will, however, be subject to the following code
  • We will not publish comments which contain rude or abusive language, libelous statements, slander and personal attacks against any person/s.
  • We will not publish comments which contain racist remarks or any kind of racial or religious incitement against any group of people, in Egypt or outside it.
  • We welcome criticism of our reports and articles but we will not publish personal attacks, slander or fabrications directed against our reporters and contributing writers.
  • We reserve the right to correct, when at all possible, obvious errors in spelling and grammar. However, due to time and staffing constraints such corrections will not be made across the board or on a regular basis.
Latest

© 2010 Ahram Online.