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All Eyes on HTS: Buffer Zone Deadline Passes for ‘Al-Qaeda in Syria’

Yesterday, it was reported that the democracy-loving “rebel” terrorists fired munitions from the internationally agreed buffer zone in Idlib, Syria. This calculated move is sure tramp-up tensions in the region.

As AFP reported, the deadline passed on Monday without jihadists leaving the planned buffer zone, as set out under a Russian-Turkish deal.

Western and Gulf-backed terrorists were supposed to withdraw from the buffer zone as the final condition to implementing a Russian-Turkish deal to stave off a regime offensive on the northwestern region of Idlib.

Who is pulling the terrorist strings? Certainly, the U.S. benefits from a resumption of tensions because it will keep Syrian and Russian resources preoccupied in northwest while U.S. and its Kurdish SDF militants construct a de facto ISIS ‘safe zone’ along the Syria-Iraq border. All of this only justifies Washington’s ongoing illegal occupation of northeastern Syria…

HTS is likely to face the consequences of failing to withdrawal from buffer zone around Idlib.
HTS (formerly Nusra Front) is likely to face the consequences of failing to withdrawal from buffer zone around Idlib.

Middle East Eye reports…

All eyes on HTS as the militant group fails to pull out but issues non-committal statement on Sochi plan

A deadline for all hardline rebels to leave a buffer zone in northern Syria passed on Monday, apparently without the withdrawal of the fighters in question.

The failure of all militant groups to leave the area puts question marks over a deal brokered by Russia and Turkey to avoid a bloody assault on the Syrian opposition’s last redoubt in the country.

However, Turkish sources told Middle East Eye that the Russians, who back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, were aware that the process of ridding the zone of hardliners may take longer than the agreed Monday deadline.

The key hardline group in question is Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an alliance of rebel factions led by al-Qaeda’s former Syrian affiliate. According to Turkish sources, at least 1,000 of the 5,000 HTS militants thought to operate in the buffer zone had left.

HTS has given no official line on whether it would abide by the deal Russia and Turkey hatched in Sochi or not. However, according to Turkish sources at least 1,000 of the 5,000 HTS militants thought to operate in the buffer zone had left.

Hours before the deadline, HTS issued a statement vowing to continue fighting.

Map: Demilitarized zone around Idlib (Source: Middle East Eye)

“We have not abandoned our choice of jihad and fighting towards implementing our blessed revolution,” the group said.

“We appreciate the efforts of all those who strive inside and abroad to protect the liberated area,” it added. “But at the same time, we warn of the deceitfulness of the Russian occupier.”

Continue this story at Middle East Eye…

READ MORE SYRIA NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Syria Files

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