Syrian Rebels Deny Withdrawing From Idlib Buffer Zone

Turkey-backed faction says media reports of pullout were a 'lie'

Following some conflicting media reports on Sunday about the Idlib Province buffer zone, Turkish-backed Syrian rebel group Failaq al-Sham has issued a subsequent statement denying that they’d withdrawn at all from the buffer zone area, calling reports they had a “lie.”

On Sunday, Failaq al-Sham issued a statement ruling out withdrawing from the buffer zone, or removing any of the weapons they have stored there, despite Turkey having a deal obliging them to do so.

While that statement is in keeping with what happened, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had claimed the group was the first to start withdrawing from the area. There was also reports of Failaq al-Sham withdrawing from some parts of Aleppo Province, which the group is also denying.

In addition to Failaq al-Sham, the buffer zone would also require pullouts from two jihadist factions, the smaller of which has also ruled out doing so. The largest faction, al-Qaeda, has not commented at all, but shows no signs of a pullback either.

This could easily mean that the Turkey-Russia deal in Idlib has failed outright, and might put a military offensive back on track for the area. Syria was keen to expel the last of the rebels, but Turkey had warned them against trying to do so.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.