Russian and Syrian Jets Pound Idlib Province After Summit

Minnie Murray
September 9, 2018

The province is home to some 3 million people, almost half of them civilians displaced from other parts of Syria.

The humanitarian impact has been staggering.

Thousands of refugees had fled to Turkey after the regime assault targeting Aleppo in 2016.

Others talk of trying to get out of Idlib to the area around Afrin, which is controlled by the Turkish military and Turkish-backed Syrian rebel forces.

The SOHR said that the strikes were the fiercest in over a month of attacks on rebel-held areas in the north. In practice it has eased the regime's bloody comeback in rebel-held territories such as Daraa and Ghouta, and now imminently in the last militant stronghold, Idlib, where the al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, dominates. "How many of them will come to Turkey?" And in a sign of the administration's shrinking commitment to Syria, it has pulled more than $200 million in stabilization funding for liberated areas, telling other nations they should step up to pay.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan pushed for a ceasefire during the summit, but Russian President Vladimir Putin said a truce would be pointless as it would not involve armed groups on the ground that Assad and his allies deem as terrorists.

It left the chance, however slim, for further diplomacy to try to separate civilians and rebels from the Islamic militants in Idlib. The US military revealed nearly no details of its plan as the statement said only that it would involve "using the US capabilities to spot the terrorists - even in an urban environment - and take them out with a minimum of civilian casualties".

"Russia's message is clear", argues Mr. Yetkın. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World. "We don't want Idlib to turn into a bloodbath", he said.

A Syrian man receives treatment at a small hospital in the town of Maaret al-Noman following a suspected toxic gas attack in Khan Sheikhun, a nearby rebel-held town in Syria's northwestern Idlib province, on 4 April 2017.

"To fight terrorism in Idlib is inevitable and part of a mission to bring about peace and stability to Syria", Rouhani said. Stop Assad's assault on Idlib.

Earlier this year, a senior adviser to Erdogan warned against any attack on Idlib, describing it as a "red line".

Itani says he had trouble imagining what a cease-fire would look like.

With the spike in Russian raids on Saturday, Moscow was aiming to put pressure on Ankara to agree to a deal for a regime takover of Idlib, according to analyst Nicholas Heras. "They only real disincentive is a military conflict with Turkey, but even that may not be enough".

For his part, Rouhani demanded an immediate withdrawal by American forces in the country.

What do we know of recent chemical weapons use?

At least 74 people died.

Washington has its own plan on how to "effectively" combat terrorism in Syria, the Pentagon has said, adding that the United States is not planning to cooperate with Moscow on the issue.

However, some analysts maintain that Washington's warnings to Assad over the use of chemical weapons against civilians should extend to conventional arms as well.

Trump has already launched two retaliatory strikes against Syria since taking office in response to chemical attacks that killed civilians, the second of which was done in conjunction with British and French forces.

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