Syrian rebels withdraw heavy weapons in Idlib

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The withdrawal of heavy weapons by the Syrian opposition in the northwestern province of Idlib proves the opposition trusts Turkey, one of its members said on October 9.

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

Jihadist factions including Syria's former Al-Qaeda branch have pulled heavy weapons from parts of a planned buffer zone in the country's northwest put forward under a Turkey-Russia deal, a monitor said Monday.

On Monday, the National Liberation Front completed withdrawing heavy arms from the zone, according to Turkish state media.

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

Five days of the deadline, the fighters of HTS and other groups-jihadists do, however, have shown no sign of a possible departure.

"The buffer zone is now nearly empty of any heavy weapons on the eve of the expiry of the deadline", its chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

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"So (HTS), like other factions, is moving heavy weapons and reinforcing its positions according to the agreement". "Heavy weapons were mostly in back posts in our bases".

A local source close to HTS said Ankara's actions demonstrated that Turkey, Russia or Iran do not plan to break the deal.

"The most hard task will be the withdrawal of forces (jihadists) of the region", he explains.

In recent weeks, Turkey has sent military convoy in the province of Idleb and its soldiers are supposed to patrol in the future "demilitarized zone".

Heras said Damascus and Moscow could use the grace period to focus on reconstructing Syria s war-ravaged infrastructure.

The Syrian war has killed more than 360,000 people since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

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