FILE - This file photo released on Monday, Sept 10, 2018 by the Syrian Civil Defense group known as the White Helmets, shows smoke rising from a Syrian government airstrike, in Hobeit village, near Idlib, Syria. As the decisive battle for Idlib looms, a motley crew of tens of thousands of Syrian opposition fighters, including some of the world's most radical, are digging their heels_ looking for ways to salvage what is possible of an armed rebellion that at one point in the seven-year conflict controlled more than half of the country. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP, File)

Thousands back home in north Syria after Russia-Turkey deal

September 19, 2018 - 5:42 am

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian opposition activists say thousands of people who were recently displaced by violence in northwest Syria have returned home following a Russia-Turkey deal that averted a government offensive on the last major rebel stronghold.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday some 7,000 people have returned over the past two days to their towns and villages in rebel-held areas in and around Idlib province.

Syria-based activist Yazan Mohammed said the flow of people back to their homes started days before Monday's deal was announced between Russia and Turkey as residents were expecting it.

On Monday, the leaders of Russia and Turkey agreed to establish a demilitarized zone around Idlib where fears had been running high of a devastating offensive by Syrian government forces.