The Islamic State of Iraq withdrew from some long-held areas in northern Syria on Friday, apparently to concentrate on defending key positions such as the city of Raqqa.
The withdrawal came just before the expiry of a five-day ultimatum set by the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra, days after ISIS killed the senior insurgent and “Al Qa’eda mediator” Abu Khaled al-Suri and almost two months after battles began between ISIS and insurgent factions.
Video from Azaz, five miles from the Turkish border in northwest Syria, confirmed ISIS’s departure as residents celebrated.
Unconfirmed reports also said ISIS had left Deir Jamal, aKafin and Mayyar.
The Iraqi-led group, prominent in northern Syria since last year, may be concentrating forces on Raqqa, the largest city captured by anti-Assad forces during the conflict. The claims also said they were reinforcing Jarablus, east of Azaaz on the Turkish border, and Al Bab in Aleppo Province.
Video: Aftermath of Airstrike on Kafr Takharim in Idlib Province
Graphic footage of victims has also been posted.
The Story of the Otaiba Mass Killing: Almost 175 Civilians and Insurgents Dead or Wounded
An interview with a survivor of the mass killing earlier this week in Otaiba, outside Damascus, may resolve whether “175 insurgents” were slain — the claim of the Syrian military — or whether the dead are civilians.
The man says the attacked group consisted of 175 people, almost all of whom were killed or injured. The civilians, accompanied by 40 fighters, were attempting to leave besieged villages in the Eastern Ghouta area and had left from Douma.
After two hours on foot, the convoy was hit by a series of 12 explosions, followed by fire from heavy weaopns.
The survivors fled in the dark in a six-hour retreat.
Video: Insurgents Fighting in Daraa City in Southern Syria
A 13-minute montage of insurgents battling regime forces in Daraa, near the Jordanian border — the city was the birthplace of the Syrian uprising in March 2011 and would be central to insurgent control of southern Syria: