Days of fighting between the Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS) alliance and Turkey-backed National Liberation Front (NLF) ended after the parties reached a ceasefire agreement in Idlib.
Rival anti-regime groups in the Syrian provinces of Idlib, Aleppo and Hama have struck a ceasefire deal following recent clashes, local sources said.
Turkey-backed National Liberation Front (NLF) and the Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS) alliance have reached a deal on Thursday to end days of deadly fighting in Syria’s Idlib region, the sources, who spoke to Anadolu Agency anonymously due to restrictions on talking to media, said.
The HTS is a coalition of factions dominated by the Fateh al Sham Front, or the former Nusra Front, a militant group that rebranded itself after publicly shedding its status as Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate in 2016. The group has been the most powerful alliance in the Idlib region.
The deal includes a ceasefire in Idlib, a prisoners swap, and removing all trenches that both groups have set up, said Ebaa, an HTS propaganda website.
Since December 30, the Nour al-Din al-Zenki movement – a component of the NLF – and HTS have been clashing intermittently across Idlib and in Hama’s rural countryside.
NLF, which is the main rebel alliance under Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA), announced on Saturday it had begun withdrawing heavy arms as part of the agreement and the withdrawal would take several days.
"This morning, HTS and the NLF signed an agreement to put an end to ongoing fighting... and establish the control of the salvation government in all areas," Ebaa said.
The so-called "salvation government" is the administrative arm of HTS, which has been gaining ground inside Syria's last major rebel bastion in recent days.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said Thursday's deal saw the whole rebel enclave come under HTS control.
Following a meeting last September in the Russian city of Sochi between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, the two sides agreed to set up a demilitarized zone – in which acts of aggression are prohibited – in Idlib.
According to the terms of the deal, opposition groups in Idlib must remain in areas in which they are already present, while Russia and Turkey would conduct joint patrols in the area with a view to preventing a resumption of fighting.
Last October, the Turkish defence ministry reported that the Syrian opposition and other anti-regime groups had fully withdrawn all heavy weaponry from the demilitarised zone.
Syria has been in a state of war in 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected severity.