A jihadist group dominated by Syria s former Al-Qaeda affiliate Thursday sealed its grip on northern Idlib, the last major rebel bastion, in a deal ending days of fighting with rival factions.
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) signed a ceasefire with what was left of a rival alliance that sees it confirm its supremacy and unites the region under a jihadist-led administration.
Under an accord reached by rebel backer Turkey and regime ally Russia in September, Ankara was expected to rein in Idlib factions to stave off a threatened government offensive with potentially disastrous humanitarian repercussions.
The jihadists deal, a copy of which was circulated on local media outlets, brings an immediate end to the fighting between HTS and the rival National Liberation Front (NLF), which was directly backed by Turkey.
“This morning, HTS and NLF signed an agreement to put an end to ongoing fighting… and establish the control of the Salvation Government in all areas,” the group s propaganda channel Ebaa said.
The self-proclaimed Salvation Government is an HTS-dominated body which had been administering large parts of the Idlib area, including its eponymous capital.
Its reach now extends to most of Idlib province and parts of the neighbouring provinces of Aleppo and Hama.
The deal sees Ankara-backed Islamist factions Ahrar al-Sham and Suqur al-Sham stand down, as areas they once held come under HTS administrative control.
These include the two major towns of Maarat al-Noman and Ariha.