After ten days of clashes, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the former branch of al-Qaeda in Syria, and the Turkish-backed National Front for Liberation (NFL) reached a ceasefire that ended to the battle between them.
Under the agreement, which was signed by both groups at the early hours of January 10, all the areas controlled by the NFL will be ruled by HTS’ Salvation Government. This was seen by many local observers as a major victory for the radical group.
The agreement was likely reached after Turkish mediation. While Ankara refused to provide any support for its proxies during their battle against an internationally recognized terrorist group, it apparently had no shame in publicly supporting the agreement.
“Ankara has taken the necessary steps to stop these [HTS] attacks,” Anadolu Agency quoted Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, as saying.
A day earlier, HTS massed its forces in the southern Idlib countryside and began its preparations to launch an attack on the NFL-held towns of Maarrat al-Nu’man and Ariha. The imminent attack led to a state of panic among Turkish-backed militants.
Turkey’s role in the ongoing infighting in Idlib was highlighted by Rami Abd al-Rahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). He accused the country of supporting HTS attacks against its own proxies. The humiliating agreement today supports al-Rahman’s claims.
Just like the previous ones, the new ceasefire agreement will not likely hold for long as HTS is constantly planning and conducting actions to expand its influence in the opposition-held part of northern Syria.