(Photo Credit: AFP)
On the evening of 18 October, the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) militant group retreated from Afrin city and its surroundings in the northern countryside of Aleppo, implementing the ceasefire agreement under Turkish pressure.
The infighting between HTS and the Syrian National Army (SNA) ended after the “Thaeroon coalition,” which had remained neutral throughout the clashes, entered as separation forces between the two parties in the Kafr Jannah axis of the west of Azaz.
Local sources said that two HTS columns left Afrin and its surroundings and returned to Idlib governorate northwest of the country.
According to sources, the HTS withdrawal from Afrin does not mean the complete withdrawal of the HTS from northern Aleppo, but rather the withdrawal of the forces that intended to complete the attack towards the city of Azaz.
In the meantime, a surge of demonstrations flared across opposition-held areas, including al-Bab and Azaz, to demand a greater effort by Turkey to stop aggressions by HTS.
The 15 October agreement got off to a bad start for the warring parties as both HTS and the SNA initially refused to comply with many of its provisions. HTS resumed an offensive early this week and took control of villages and towns on the Afrin-Azaz road.
Moreover, some SNA commanders refused to evacuate their positions in Afrin due to being taken over by HTS, which refused to release prisoners, as was previously agreed upon. The SNA also refused to remove its main barrier at the entrance of Kafr Jannah town.
The first deal reached on 14 October proved highly fragile due to intricate arrangements to share political, economic, and security authority in the areas captured by HTS and its allies.
The anti-Assad armed groups fighting sparked due to the involvement of fighters from the SNA in the killing of political activist Muhammad Abdul Latif (Abu Ghannoum) and his pregnant wife in Al-Bab city on 7 October.