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Turkey: All heavy weapons removed from Idlib zone

Syria’s Idlib region is vacated with heavy weapons on Wednesday, according to Turkish authorities. Idlib is the last major area still outside regime control.

This province and surrounding rebel-held territory are home to three million people. Half of them are from other parts of the country recaptured by Russia-backed Syria forces.

Turkey and Russia signed an agreement to remove all heavy weapons from the buffer zone in Idlib province in Syria on Wednesday . The Turkish media and the exile group of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that the weapons had been removed on Wednesday morning. On Wednesday afternoon, the Ministry of Defense in Ankara confirmed the same thing.

The demand for all heavy weapons to be removed from the zone seems to have been fulfilled by all parties, including the most extreme Islamist groups, reports AFP.

The Turkish-supported rebel alliance NFL already announced Monday that it had removed all heavy weapons from the area. Then, jihadist groups did the same thing – in silence.

According to AFP,Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and two other jihadist groups control over two thirds of the planned buffer zone. Government is preparing to remove all groups from the zone by Monday. HTS consists, among other things, of former al-Qaeda warriors and has long held a dominant position among the rebels in Idlib.

The agreement between Russia and Turkey was signed on September 17 after Turkey had driven intense diplomacy to prevent an Syrian government offensive against what is the last rebel-controlled area in Syria.

The plan is to establish a 15-20 kilometer wide buffer zone between rebels and Syrian government forces.

An offensive would probably lead to a major humanitarian disaster for the nearly 3 million inhabitants – many of whom are internally displaced from other parts of Syria.

Turkey also feared that it would lead to a large flow of refugees across the border.

According to the United Nations, an offensive against Idlib displace upto 800,000 people and lead to humanitarian “Catastrophe”

(© NTB)

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