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Syrian HTS Backs Turkey Offensive against Kurds

Syrian HTS Backs Turkey Offensive against Kurds

Tuesday, 15 January, 2019 - 10:30
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham fighters are seen near buses outside the villages of al-Foua and Kefraya, Syria July 18, 2018. (Reuters)
Beirut, London - Asharq Al-Awsat
Syria's National Coalition, the leading opposition body, called for a “radical solution” to resolve the presence of the powerful extremist group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which dominates the Idlib province, the last opposition bastion in the country.

The demand coincided with HTS leader Abu Muhammad al-Julani’s remarks that his faction supports Turkey's military operation against US-backed Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria.

"We see the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) as an enemy of this revolution and take over areas where a large number of Sunni Arabs live," Julani said in an interview published by the Amjad news channel.

The HTS sealed its grip on Idlib when it reached a ceasefire deal with what was left of a rival alliance following days of deadly fighting. Dominated by Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate, HTS has proclaimed a salvation government to administer most of Idlib province and parts of neighboring provinces of Aleppo and Hama.

Syria's National Coalition, the leading opposition body, slammed HTS's attempts to "get its hands on" the whole region.

"It is necessary to find a radical solution which puts an end to its presence in Idlib and in any other regions," the coalition said in a statement at the conclusion of a meeting on the latest developments in Syria.

Idlib has been protected by a buffer zone implemented under a Turkish-Russian deal reached in September to prevent a regime offensive to retake the northern region from the opposition.

As part of the deal, radical fighters, such as HTS, were supposed to withdraw from the planned demilitarized area by mid-October, but never did.

The HTS takeover revives the threat of a Syrian offensive, prompting the National Coalition to call for an agreement with Turkey to protect civilians.

“And prevent the regime and its supporters, the Russians and the Iranians, to lead a genocide under the pretext of the terrorist presence in the region.”

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