Pro-Turkey Syria rebels accept Idlib deal, albeit cautiously

The National Liberation Front have announced their ‘full cooperation with our Turkish ally in helping to make a success their efforts to spare civilians from the afflictions of war.’ (AFP)
Updated 23 September 2018
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Pro-Turkey Syria rebels accept Idlib deal, albeit cautiously

  • The National Liberation Front rebel alliance accepts deal reached or Idlib, but says they remain on their guard
  • Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions from their homes since erupting in 2011
BEIRUT: Pro-Turkey rebels have cautiously accepted a Moscow-Ankara deal to prevent a Russia-backed regime attack on Syria’s last major opposition bastion of Idlib, while a small militant group has rejected it.
The dominant force in the northwestern region bordering Turkey, the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) alliance led by militants of Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, had on Sunday however still not responded.
Late Saturday, the National Liberation Front (NLF) rebel alliance in a statement accepted the deal reached on Monday for Idlib, but said they remained on their guard.
They announced “our full cooperation with our Turkish ally in helping to make a success their efforts to spare civilians from the afflictions of war.”
“But we will stay alert to any betrayal by the Russians, the regime or the Iranians,” the NLF warned, fearing the agreement to be “temporary.”
“We will not abandon our weapons, our land or our revolution” against the Russia- and Iran-backed forces of President Bashar Assad, the rebels said.
Also on Saturday, in a statement circulated on social media, the Al-Qaeda-linked Hurras Al-Deen rejected the agreement reached in the Russian resort of Sochi.
“We at the Hurras Al-Deen organization again announce our rejection of these conspiracies,” it said.
Monday’s agreement provides for a U-shaped buffer zone 15 to 20 kilometers (9 to 12 miles) wide to be set up around Idlib.
Under the deal, all factions in the planned demilitarized zone must hand over their heavy weapons by October 10, and radical groups must withdraw by October 15.
Both the extremist Hurras Al-Deen and NLF rebels are present inside this planned buffer area, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.
But the dominant HTS alliance is also widely present, according to the Britain-based monitor.
The militant-led group — which controls more than half of the Idlib region — has not officially responded to the agreement.
But its propaganda agency Ebaa has cast doubt on Turkey’s motivations.
In August, HTS leader Abu Mohamed Al-Jolani warned opposition factions in Idlib against handing over their weapons.
Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions from their homes since erupting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-Assad protests.


US to send 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East

Updated 41 min 23 sec ago
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US to send 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East

DUBAI/WASHINGTON: Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced on Monday the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for what he said were “defensive purposes,” citing concerns about a threat from Iran.
“The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region,” Shanahan said in a statement.
Reuters first reported plans to send US additional troops to the Middle East earlier on Monday.
Fears of a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted since last Thursday when two oil tankers were attacked, more than a year after President Donald Trump announced Washington was withdrawing from a 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran said on Monday it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under the deal, which a White House National Security Council spokesman said amounted to “nuclear blackmail.”