Rival militias in northwest Syria reach preliminary ceasefire, joint administration agreement
Rival rebel militias in northwest Syria have reached a preliminary ceasefire and joint administration agreements after days of widespread deadly clashes between them, military sources have told The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site.
Hardline Islamist extremist group Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and the Third Corps of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army reached the agreement on Friday night, a military source from the Third Corps told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.
The preliminary agreement included a ceasefire and the return of each faction to their former locations, the military source said.
HTS – who control much of Syria’s north-western province of Idlib – had in recent days overrun areas held by the Third Corps in the Afrin and Azaz districts of Aleppo province, causing fierce fighting to erupt and displaced families to flee.
Areas surrounding Afrin and Azaz would come under a unified military administration supervised by HTS as part of the deal, the source said.
The agreement also stipulated the entry of an HTS military convoy in Azaz and other cities, as a symbolic sign to encourage acceptance of their presence in the areas, sources from Idlib told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.
To allow the convoys to move in, forces began to open roads between Azaz and Afrin that had been shut due to clashes - but civilians protested the move by blocking the roads with burning tyres, according to footage taken by the news outlet.
The agreement has not been welcomed by all in the Third Corps, a source from the faction said.
About four million people live in rebel-held areas of Syria, many of them displaced from elsewhere in Syria by the war that began in 2011 after Bashar al-Assad's regime crushed peaceful protest.
The Syrian rebels are fragmented into a myriad of different groups, with HTS, a hardline Islamist group previously affiliated to Al-Qaeda, dominating most of Idlib province, while Turkish-backed groups control Azaz, Al-Bab and other cities near the Syrian-Turkish border.
Both the HTS and the SNA have been accused of human rights abuses in northern Syria, including indiscriminate shelling and kidnappings.