Game Over: Idlib Heavy Weapons Withdrawal Close to End

In keeping with an agreement reached by Russia and Turkey to resolve the situation in Syria’s Idlib, jihadist groups have until October 10 to withdraw their heavy weapons from the demilitarized zone in the province.

In an interview with Sputnik, a Syrian Army representative said that groups such as Hayati al-Sham, largely made up of al-Nusra, Huras ad-Din and the National Liberation Front militants, including 16 Free Syrian Army groups, controlled by Turkey, had pulled their heavy weapons out of the southern, southwestern and eastern parts of the province. According the official, the militants have only medium and light weapons left.

“The Turkish military monitors every stage of the weapon withdrawal process. The process is also being monitored by the Russian side from the air. The withdrawal takes three days and is scheduled to end later today. Only heavy weapons, such as Grad multiple rocket launchers, medium-range rocket launchers, howitzers, anti-aircraft installations and tanks as well as long-range weapons have been taken out,” he said.

He added that the militants will only have light and medium weapons left to ensure their security. Khayati al-Sham fighters, who were most opposed to the terms of the Idlib withdrawal agreement, were eventually forced to accept them.

Syrian army artillery soldiers in Idlib province in northwestern Syria - Sputnik International
Russia, Turkey Determine Borders of Idlib Demilitarized Zone – Official
“As a result of the Turkish efforts, the militants were persuaded to withdraw their heavy weapons,” the Syrian Army representative said.

He added that Khayati al-Sham, Huras ad-Din, and Chechen detachments were currently active in southern and southwestern Idlib.

The National Liberation Front forces are deployed in central Idlib and those of them active in the northeast will not withdraw their weapons because the neighboring area Tel-Rifat is controlled by Kurdish YPG self-defense units.

The Syrian Army representative noted that with the heavy weapons now gone, the risk of clashes between the armed factions in Idlib has significantly decreased.

The National Liberation Front commander Inad Dervish has also reported the withdrawal from the frontlines of tanks, howitzers and multiple rocket launchers as part of the Russian-Turkish agreement. He stressed that the militants will retain their short- and medium-range weapons.

On September 17, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in the Russian resort city of Sochi and signed an agreement on setting up a 9-12 mile demilitarized zone in Idlib along the contact line of the armed opposition and the government forces by October 15.

The agreement was aimed at preventing a possible offensive by the Syrian government's troops in the province of Idlib, the last remaining stronghold of insurgency in the country.

READ MORE: Assad: Idlib Ceasefire 'Temporary', Gov't Will Restore Control Over All of Syria

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