Feylak al-Sham militants start withdrawing units from Syria’s Idlib
The Feylak al-Sham armed group has started pulling out its units from an area on the border between Syria’s Idlib and Aleppo Governorates, where a demilitarized zone is due to be set up by October 15, Al MayadeenTV channel reported.
The militants are leaving their positions with military hardware. Feylak al-Sham is the third largest group in northwestern Syria after Jabhat al-Nusra (terror group, outlawed in Russia) and the Ahrar al-Sham Islamist group. Its commander, Fadlallah al-Haji, leads a coalition of pro-Turkish forces, which are part of the moderate opposition.
According to the Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, representatives of the Turkish General Staff and field commanders held a meeting and Ankara demanded that they withdraw their units from the contact line with the government forces.
Not all radical groups have agreed to comply with the ultimatum. The leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, has not yet responded to the demand.
Sources in Damascus told the paper that should the terrorists refuse to pull out their forces from the buffer zone, which is being set up, a military operation in northwestern Syria may be resumed. A spokesman for the command of the so-called Free Syrian Army, Ahmad Tumah, voiced confidence that Ankara would force radicals to leave their bases.
Idlib is the only large Syrian region, which still remains under control of illegal armed groups. In 2017, a northern de-escalation zone was established in the region, where militants reluctant to lay down their arms and sign reconciliation deals with the authorities moved together with their families.
The September 17 talks between the Russian and Turkish Presidents, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Russia’s Sochi yielded an agreement to establish a demilitarized zone (15-20 km deep) in Syria’s Idlib, along the contact line between government troops and the opposition by October 15. At Ankara’s initiative, it is planned to withdraw the opposition’s tanks, multiple missile launcher systems, artillery systems and mortars from this zone by October 10. Control in this zone will be the responsibility of mobile patrol groups of Turkish troops and units of Russian military police.