A Syrian rebel-fighter from the National Liberation Front (NLF) checks the horizon in a post on the frontline with regime forces in the south east of Idlib province on October 9, 2018. AFP / OMAR HAJ KADOUR
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A buffer zone separating warring parties is taking shape around Syria's last rebel bastion Idlib but the success of the Russian-Turkish truce plan lies largely in the hands of extremists. The Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham alliance led by Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate controls more than two-thirds of the front line with government forces where the buffer zone is being established.Unlike its Turkish-backed rivals, HTS then faces a second, Monday deadline that analysts say is likely to determine the success of the truce to withdraw all of its fighters from the future buffer zone.The alliance has around 30,000 fighters, including about 10,000 foreigners, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based activist group.How powerful is it?HTS fighters helped oust government forces from Idlib in 2015 and they now control more than half of the province, including more than two-thirds of the front line.
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