October 10, 2018

Syria buffer free of heavy arms as jihadists face deadline

Featuring Nicholas Heras

Source: AFP

Journalist Alice Hackman

A planned buffer zone in northwest Syria has been cleared of heavy armaments ahead of time but a new deadline loomed Wednesday for the tougher task of Turkey convincing jihadists to pull out their fighters.

The demilitarised zone ringing the Idlib region is the result of a deal reached last month between rebel backer Turkey and government ally Russia to stave off a regime assault on Syria's last major rebel stronghold.

The accord called for a complete withdrawal of all heavy weapons from the planned buffer by Wednesday, and rebels and jihadists met that deadline a day early.

"No heavy weapons were seen in the buffer zone," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Turkey-backed National Liberation Front (NLF) rebel alliance said it had pulled out all heavy arms by Monday, and the Observatory said jihadists quietly followed suit.

In the days leading up to the deadline, AFP journalists saw heavy weaponry, including tanks and artillery, that had been withdrawn from the zone and restationed elsewhere in Idlib.

Despite the relatively speedy implementation of the accord's first deadline, observers say a thornier task lies ahead.

Under the deal, the zone must be free by next Monday of all jihadists, including those of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the region's dominant force led by former Al-Qaeda fighters.

With five days to go, HTS and other jihadist fighters remained inside the planned buffer area and showed no sign of leaving.

Read the full article and more at Yahoo.

  • Nicholas Heras

    Fellow, Middle East Security Program

    Nicholas A. Heras is a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), working in the Middle East Security Program. He is also a Senior Analyst at the Jamestown Found...