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Airstrikes hit Syria's Idlib province, the last remaining rebel stronghold

Airstrikes hit Syria's Idlib province, the last remaining rebel stronghold

On Saturday the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a monitoring body, and the opposition-affiliated Idlib Media Centre said government helicopters had dropped 19 barrel bombs on targets in Idlib and Hama, and Russian warplanes had staged 68 strikes.

A trilateral meeting of Russia, Iran and Turkey was held in Tehran which focused on the Syrian province of Idlib, the last stronghold of active opposition to the government of President Bashar Assad.

They are also putting their faith in neighbouring Turkey's diplomacy to spare them from military action, which could become a humanitarian disaster.

In the province itself, thousands of people staged street protests after Friday prayers calling for global protection.

It said at least four civilians were killed, including two children and a woman, majority in Abdeen, a village west Khan of Sheikhoun.

The raids targeted jihadist and rebel positions, some of which were empty and others in use, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said. However, the Post article itself admits that 14,000 fighters in Idlib are linked to al-Qaeda, though the figure is likely much higher.

Antakya, Turkey - Syrian government forces backed by their Russian allies have stepped up their bombardment of rebel-held territories in northwest Syria, killing at least six civilians, according to local activists. Damage was reported to a building used by an Islamist militia allied with Turkey called Ahrar al-Sham.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, left, and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan leave a news conference after meeting in Tehran on Friday.

Turkey - which has long backed some rebel groups - fears an all-out assault will trigger another major refugee crisis on its southern border.

Meanwhile, Jim Jeffrey, Washington's special envoy to Syria, said the USA was seeing indications Assad's forces were readying chemical weapons.

Nearly 3 million civilians live there and the prospects for a humanitarian catastrophe are high if the government doesn't allow an escape route.

"We warned them that this would be a problem in the future. and now they use it as an excuse", said Cavusoglu, referring to the humanitarian corridors Russian Federation established after reconciliation deals with rebel factions that allowed them to relocate to Idlib as advancing government forces moved into opposition-held territory.

At their summit in Tehran, Vladimir Putin demanded the "total annihilation of terrorists in Syria", while Iran's Hassan Rouhani said the United States must immediately leave.

Meanwhile, Mr Putin said "the legitimate Syrian government has a right and must eventually take control of its entire national territory".

The UN and aid groups have warned a military campaign in Idlib could spark one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in the seven-year Syrian war.

Syrian and Russian forces stand guard as civilians enter the Abu Duhur crossing on the eastern edge of Idlib province, on August 20, 2018.

But the vast majority of its residents are civilians.

Russian Federation is Assad's top worldwide backer; its support, including aircraft, special forces and mercenaries, enabled him to reverse the course of his country's seven-year civil war, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more.

Instead, Putin warned militants in Idlib planned "provocations", possibly including chemical weapons.

The United States also said it had "lots of evidence" that regime forces were preparing chemical weapons for possible use in Idlib.


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