DAMASCUS, The deadline for the withdrawal of extremist militants from the demilitarized zone in northern Syria passed without their evacuation, a war monitor reported on Monday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said none of the extremist groups left the demilitarized zone as they were supposed to evacuate by Oct. 15 in accordance with the Russian-Turkish deal to establish a buffer zone in certain areas in northern Syria.
The observatory said the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, also known as the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, released a statement on Sunday evening, expressing for the first time its stance toward the demilitarized zone deal.
The group said in the statement that they would continue to fight the Syrian government forces to achieve the goal of toppling the administration of President Bashar al-Assad.
The Tahrir al-Sham is considered as the most powerful among the rebel groups in Idlib Province, which is the last major rebel stronghold in Syria.
Their statement, however, didn't explicitly say that they will not withdraw, but it comes to add to the doubts about the full timely implementation of the Turkish-Russian deal.
The planned buffer zone will include areas in Idlib as well as adjacent countryside areas of the provinces of Hama, Latakia and Aleppo.
The observatory said in an earlier report on Sunday that the Syrian and Russian side is targeting the demilitarized zone for many reasons, one of which is the presence of the extremist groups in the zone.
The withdrawal of the extremist groups from the buffer zone is the second step of the Russian-Turkish deal to establish such a zone in northern Syria.
The rebels have withdrawn their heavy weapons recently but the fighters didn't.
The deal was reached in Sept. between the leaders of Turkey and Russia, aiming at averting Idlib Province, which is the last major rebel stronghold in Syria, a wide-scale offensive by the Syrian Army.
The Syrian government has welcomed the deal but noted that it was temporary not a permanent one.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK