Reports surfaced overnight of an alleged Israeli air strike near the al-Mazzah Airport in Damascus, which followed news this weekend that the United States has drawn up a list of Syrian facilities that will be targeted should the Assad regime use chemical weapons during an anticipated major assault on Idlib Province.
Russia, Assad's main military backer, has warned rebels may stage a chemical weapons attack and blame it on the regime in order to provoke a Western intervention. The minister said Syria would try to avoid civilian deaths.
Syria's deputy prime minister, Walid Moallem, said in an interview with Russian television on Saturday that capturing Idlib was a priority, given the widespread presence of "terrorists" there, a reference to the Islamist fighting groups, including Syria's strongest rebel faction, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS, which is affiliated with al-Qaida.
And that reality, he told AFP, is that "Assad is advancing on the ground, aided by Iran by land and Russian Federation by air", while the United States places its hopes on a UN-backed Geneva peace process that might best be described, he said, as "moribund". Meanwhile, truckloads of United Nations humanitarian aid entered through the Cilvegözü Border Gate on Friday in Reyhanlı town of the Hatay province in southern Turkey to be distributed to the needy in Idlib.
"President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not recklessly attack Idlib Province".
We have been aware of that since the very beginning.
The UN has also requested global parties involved in the Syrian civil war to do everything to prevent open warfare in Idlib, which is home to around three million people.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has warned Russian Federation that seeking a military solution in Idlib would cause "catastrophe" and trigger an new influx of refugees across its borders.
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U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura told reporters that there was a high concentration of foreign fighters in Idlib, including an estimated 10,000 terrorists, but it would be better to set up humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians than rush into a battle which could turn prove to be a "perfect storm".
A war-of-words already is being waged between the US and Russian Federation, with the former accusing the latter of violating an understanding to prevent the Syrian regime from advancing on Idlib.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced in the conflict, according to the UN.
HTS has controlled much of Idlib since 2015, acting as de facto governmental authority, facilitating trade across the long border with Turkey and organising aid deliveries.
The latest exchange of warnings between Washington and Moscow comes as war monitors say thousands of Syrian government troops and allied fighters have been amassing in areas surrounding Idlib in preparation for an assault. Russia's foreign ministry has warned three world powers (US, UK, and France) to halt the use of chemical attacks as a means of putting pressure on the government of Damascus and its allies.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will travel to Iran to meet with his Russian and Iranian counterparts Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani, state-run TRT Haber television said.
The campaign for Idlib is likely to be the last major theater of battle after seven years of brutal civil war.