Turkey-backed Syrian rebels to send fighters to Idlib area, says official: report

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A Syrian rebel-fighter from the National Liberation Front (NLF) walks in a street in the rebel-held al-Rashidin district of western Aleppo's countryside near Idlib province, on October 15, 2018. - Jihadists in Syria's Idlib failed to meet a deadline to leave a planned buffer zone ringing the country's last rebel bastion, casting fresh doubt over a deal to avert bloodshed. (Photo by Aaref WATAD / AFP)

A Syrian rebel force supported by Turkey will send fighters to reinforce positions facing a Russian-backed Syrian government offensive in the Idlib region in the northwest of the country, an official in the rebel force told Reuters on Thursday.

The National Army, an opposition group that is based north of Aleppo city near the Turkish border and is backed by Ankara, took the decision at a meeting with the rebel National Liberation Front (NLF), a separate rebel alliance that operates in the Idlib area, said Mohamed Abu Sharfo, spokesman for the National Army’s First Legion.

The decision was taken to “start sending forces from the National Army to rural Hama and Idlib,” Abu Sharfo said. “The level of readiness has been raised and fighters are being called up from all the brigades of the National Army,” he said.

The NLF and National Army also decided to establish a joint operations room. Northwestern Syria represents the last major foothold of the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad.

The most powerful rebel group in the Idlib region is widely seen to be the jihadist Hayat Tahrir al-Sham faction.

Turkey and Russia last year reached an agreement to establish a demilitarized zone in Idlib and regain control of the city from terrorist groups in order to stave off a Russia-backed Syrian army offensive.

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