Jabhat al-Nusra removed its personnel from one northern Idlib town on Thursday ahead of a “cessation of hostilities” agreement slated to go into effect at midnight Friday, multiple pro-opposition media reported.
The agreement, initially hammered out between Russian and the US on February 11 and whose final terms were announced on the 22nd, does not apply to military operations against the Islamic State, Jabhat a-Nusra, “or other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council.”
In addition to removing its fighters from checkpoints throughout the town of Sarmada, located six kilometers from the Turkish border in northwestern Idlib province, Jabhat al-Nusra also evacuated its judges from the Sarmada Dar al-Qada (courthouse).
“Nusra decided to evacuate its fighters from the town to avoid providing the West with an excuse to attack the Syrian people under the pretext of fighting al-Qaeda,” Abu Salah, a civilian judge who took the place of one of Nusra’s jurists in the Sarmada courthouse told Syria Direct’s Noura al-Hourani on Thursday.
Q: Jabhat al-Nusra removed its judges and fighters on Thursday from the Dar al-Qada (courthouse) and checkpoints in the town of Sarmada. In your opinion why is Jabhat al-Nusra making this move now?
After it was announced that Nusra would be excluded from the ceasefire agreement [set to begin Saturday], Nusra decided to evacuate its fighters from the town to avoid providing the West with an excuse to attack the Syrian people under the pretext of fighting al-Qaeda.
Q: Do you think this move by Nusra improves the chances that the agreement will be successful?
To be honest, no I don’t. But Nusra is trying to play the same game, so there will be no excuses.