Syria’s Idlib under ‘violent’ air strikes


Previously, Trump "resisted significant involvement" in the Syrian civil war "even as both Iran and Russian Federation increased their influence", notes the Post.

In addition to opposition forces who have sworn to fight to the death, Idlib is also home to nearly 3 million civilians who will be caught up in the battle.

Furthermore, just a year ago, Brett McGurk - the USA government's Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (Daesh, ISIS) - called Syria's Idlib province "the largest Al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11, tied directly to Ayman al-Zawahiri [current leader of Al Qaeda]".

The U.S. has found itself largely on the sidelines of the possible offensive as Iran, Russia and Turkey - all nations that Washington has imposed sanctions upon - discuss Idlib's future.

The bombings, including shelling from government areas, came a day after Iran and Russian Federation backed a military campaign in the rebel-held area despite Turkey's pleas for a cease-fire.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based war monitor, said that Russian air raids targeted positions in Idlib's southwest held by the hard-line Ahrar al-Sham group, as well as the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham Islamist alliance, which is led by a group affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

State-run Al-Ikhbariya TV said the government was retaliating against overnight shelling, coming from rebel-held areas, against a government-held town in Hama province, south of Idlib. "If they do so, the regime can not take the area at an acceptable cost, and Idlib becomes a de-facto Turkish zone".

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

The UN and Western countries have blamed Assad's forces for chemical weapons attacks in the civil war, something denied by Russian Federation and Syria.

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Even American airstrikes launched against the Assad government have had limited impact in the past.

Separately, clashes broke out in eastern Syria in Qamishli, a town close to the border with Turkey, between government and Kurdish security members.

Northwestern Idlib province and surrounding areas are home to about 3 million people - almost half of them civilians displaced from other parts of Syria.

"We are not happy at all that the fate of Idlib is being decided in Tehran", said Awwad, who sported a black beard and wore a white shirt.

Washington says that the Syrian government forces may carry out a chemical weapons attack in Idlib and warned that such actions will have serious consequences.

Idlib is the last of four de-escalation zones created under the auspices of the Astana Process in which rebels and their families were transferred to designated areas protected by a cease-fire.

Elsewhere on Saturday, clashes between Kurdish forces and regime fighters in the divided northeastern city of Qamishli killed 18 combatants, the Kurdish forces and the Observatory said.

Mostafa said he had lost two brothers during the war, one killed by Isil and the other by the regime.

The Syrian government has denied ever using chemical weapons. This prompted the clashes, which lasted no more than 20 minutes, Sheikmos said. When top officials pushed back, saying they needed time to ensure that ISIS wouldn't reemerge in the region, Trump reportedly relented, saying they could have five or six months to wrap up the mission.