BEIRUT- The Jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has begun withdrawing from parts of northern Syria ahead of a deadline set by a rival group, a monitor said Thursday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the group was retreating east towards its stronghold in the city of Raqa.
The withdrawal comes four days after the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front issued ISIL an ultimatum to go before an Islamic court for mediation or face being forced from Syria altogether.
The deadline expires on Saturday.
“ISIS has withdrawn from Aazaz, its most important bastion in Aleppo province, as well as the Minnigh military airport, the Mayer region and the villages of Deir Jamal and Kafin,” the Observatory said.
“Aleppo region is their weakest link, so they fear being attacked there” by Al-Nusra and other rebels after the deadline expires, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
“ISIL is heading to areas that neighbour Raqa province where it has its main stronghold in the city of Raqa,” he said.
ISIL fighters had regrouped in particular in Jarabulus and Manbij, on the far eastern border of Aleppo province and close to Raqa, he added.