Shells fired from Syria buffer zone, soldiers killed: SOHR

Shells fired from Syria buffer zone, soldiers killed: SOHR

The dominant alliance in Syria's last major militant stronghold of Idlib province said Sunday it would continue to fight, hours before a deadline for the terrorists to withdraw from a planned buffer zone.

It set a first deadline of October 10 for all rebels and jihadists to pull heavy weapons from the zone, a task which Turkey, the Observatory, and rebels said was done on time.

Moualem said the government's next target after recovering Idlib from rebels would be the area east of the Euphrates - territory that is now held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which are allies of the United States.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Sunday that government forces shelled rebel areas in the DMZ, causing material damage and wounding a child.

"We have to wait, but at the same time, our troops are still ready around Idlib", he said.

A Syrian rebel fighter sits on a hill overlooking regime-held areas in northwestern countryside of Aleppo province.

Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin signaled on September 20 for the first time that if necessary, Turkey may use military action to remove the Levant Liberation Committee from the Idlib demilitarized zone in coordination with Russian Federation.

"We have not abandoned our choice of jihad and fighting towards implementing our blessed revolution", said Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance led by al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate.

Since then, Ankara has consolidated its military positions with near-weekly convoys as the deadline for establishing the buffer zone approaches.

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According to a brief this month by the Omran Center, HTS chief Abu Mohammad al Jolani appears supportive of the deal and of aligning with the Turkish-backed National Liberation Front (NLF), the second-most-powerful group in Idlib.

The rebels have withdrawn their heavy weapons recently but the fighters didn't.

Al-Ahmad said the group's leader, Abu Mohammed al-Golani, and the Syrian members are close to the Turkish side, while the foreign fighters are opposed to the deal.

The lion's share of Idlib is held by HTS, as well as more hardline jihadists like Hurras al-Deen and Ansar al-Islam.

Those fighters also control more than two-thirds of the planned buffer zone and are supposed to withdraw by Monday.

On Friday, residents around Idlib received warning messages on their mobile phones from the Syrian army.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the buffer should be fully operational by October 15, but that a delay of one or two days would "make no difference".

He warned, however, that the situation in Idlib can not continue if the extremists do not comply with the agreement for the area, on the day of a critical deal deadline.

Those in the opposition fear the deal could end up like last year's so-called de-escalation zones implemented in central and southern Syria, where government forces used temporary cease-fire agreements to regroup and then launch devastating offensives.

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