Ji­hadists kill 8 Syria troops near truce zone — Mon­i­tor

The Borneo Post - - WORLD -

BEIRUT: Ji­hadists have killed at least eight Syr­ian gov­ern­ment troops near a planned buf­fer zone around the coun­try’s last ma­jor rebel bas­tion, a mon­i­tor said yes­ter­day.

The Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights said the at­tack took place late on Fri­day in the north of Hama prov­ince near the planned buf­fer zone around rebel-held ter­ri­tory in neigh­bour­ing Idlib.

The at­tack was led by fighters of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an al­liance led by Syria’s for­mer al-Qaeda branch which is the dom­i­nant force in Idlib, the Bri­tain-based mon­i­tor­ing group said.

“An as­sault by HTS tar­geted a Syr­ian regime po­si­tion on the out­skirts of the de-mil­i­tarised zone” and was fol­lowed by clashes in which eight regime forces were killed, Ob­ser­va­tory chief Rami Ab­del Rah­man told AFP. Two ji­hadists also died. The de-mil­i­tarised zone was an­nounced by rebel backer Ankara and Da­m­as­cus ally Moscow in Septem­ber to sep­a­rate gov­ern­ment troops from rebel fighters in Idlib and ad­ja­cent ar­eas.

Un­der the deal, the rebels were sup­posed to have re­moved all heavy weapons from the buf­fer zone by Oc­to­ber 10 but skir­mishes have con­tin­ued to pit regime forces against ji­hadists and other in­sur­gents on the ground.

Rebel fac­tions have said they with­drew their heavy weapons from the zone but HTS and other hard­line groups have re­fused to pull out their fighters.

The deadly ji­hadist as­sault came hours af­ter gov­ern­ment troops killed 23 fighters of a formerly US-backed rebel group in­side the planned buf­fer zone.

Idlib and some ad­ja­cent ar­eas are the last ma­jor rebel bas­tion in Syria, where the Rus­sian-backed gov­ern­ment has in re­cent months re­taken much of the ter­ri­tory it had lost since the civil war erupted. — AFP

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