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Turkey-backed Syrian rebels to send fighters to Idlib area - official

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BEIRUT (Reuters) – A Syrian rebel force supported by Turkey will send fighters to reinforce positions facing a Russian-backed Syrian government offensive in the Idlib region in the northwest of the country, an official in the rebel force told Reuters on Thursday.

The National Army, an opposition group that is based north of Aleppo city near the Turkish border and is backed by Ankara, took the decision at a meeting with the rebel National Liberation Front (NLF), a separate rebel alliance that operates in the Idlib area, said Mohamed Abu Sharfo, spokesman for the National Army’s First Legion.

The decision was taken to “start sending forces from the National Army to rural Hama and Idlib”, Abu Sharfo said. “The level of readiness has been raised and fighters are being called up from all the brigades of the National Army,” he said.

The NLF and National Army also decided to establish a joint operations room. Northwestern Syria represents the last major foothold of the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad.

The most powerful rebel group in the Idlib region is widely seen to be the jihadist Hayat Tahrir al-Sham faction.

(Reporting by Khalil Ashawi in Turkey; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by James Drummond)

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