UPDATE – Opposition heavy weapons removed from Idlib


By Burak Karacaoglu, Esref Musa, Levent Tok and Adham Kako

IDLIB, Syria (AA) – The Syrian opposition and other anti-regime groups on Monday completed the withdrawal of all their heavy weapons from Idlib frontlines in northwestern Syria.

According to an Anadolu Agency correspondent in the scene, the forces removed heavy weapons from Idlib de-escalation zone’s frontlines with the Syrian regime and allied Iran-backed groups.

Earlier on Monday, an opposition source told Anadolu Agency that the opposition had worked during the past days and throughout Sunday night to withdraw heavy weapons, including Grad rocket launchers, mortars and medium-range missiles.

Meanwhile, Turkish forces sent various weapons and armored vehicles to the demilitarized zone to prepare for patrols with Russian forces according to the Sochi agreement between the two countries.

In a related development, sources with the White Helmets civil defense agency said three civilians were killed in regime attacks on residential areas in de-escalation zones in the provinces of Idlib, Hama and Lattakia.

Following a meeting in Sochi last month between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, the two countries agreed to establish a demilitarized zone in Idlib, Syria’s last opposition stronghold.

Ankara and Moscow also signed a memorandum of understanding calling for the "stabilization" of Idlib's de-escalation zone, in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

Under the deal, opposition groups in Idlib will remain in areas in which they are already present, while Russia and Turkey will conduct joint patrols in the area with a view to preventing renewed fighting.

Mostly controlled by the Free Syrian Army, Idlib is located just across the border from Turkey’s southern province of Hatay.