Pro-government offensive continues in Syria's Idlib province

Ceasefire talks fail as airstrikes target last rebel-held region in Syria

Syrians flee Idlib offensive

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights described the airstrikes as the "most intense" since August when government forces began targeting the southern edge of Idlib province.

Terrorists in the rebel-held Syrian city of Idlib have nearly completed their preparations for a provocation involving chemical weapons, chief spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Defense Major General Igor Konashenkov stated Saturday.

There are estimated to be as many as three million civilians living in the province.

Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock's comments in Geneva came days after Iran and Russian Federation backed a military campaign in the rebel-held area despite Turkey's pleas for a cease-fire.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin this week called for the "total annihilation of terrorists in Syria", while Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke of "cleansing the Idlib region of terrorists".

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said an all-out military assault on the last major stronghold of active opposition to President Bashar Assad could set 800,000 people to flight.

The threat comes after it recaptured areas around the capital Damascus and in southern Syria earlier this year, through a combination of deadly bombardment and surrender deals.

"Russia is reminding Turkey it needs to stay in Russia's good graces if Turkey wants to avoid a painful catastrophe in northwest Syria", said the researcher at the Center for New American Security.

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The Russian president Vladimir Putin has to decide if he is willing to ignore Erdoğan, and allow the Assad regime to attack as many as 60,000 Syrian opposition fighters, of which around 10,000 are not allied to Turkey, but instead follow the United Nations proscribed jihadist group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an offshoot of al-Qaeda's former branch in Syria.

Idlib's provincial health chief Munzer al-Khalil warned Saturday that a large-scale military operation could result in "the most catastrophic crisis in our war".

On Saturday, the United States' top general said he and Trump have "routine dialogue" about possible military consequences if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons in Idlib. The Observatory said the clashes left 10 government security personnel and seven Kurdish fighters dead.

The Pentagon is reportedly drawing up military options which include the potential targeting of Russian or Iranian forces which are aiding the Assad regime.

"When they did not comply, the shooting started on the auto", Abdel Rahman said. Russian Federation later allowed Turkish-led forces to drive Kurdish fighters out of Afrin. About 2,000 US troops are now operating in Syria, a lot of them in the eastern region of the country.

The Damascus regime has vowed to reintegrate the Kurdish-held areas, by force if necessary.

The town is run by Kurdish-led administrators and forces, but Syrian government troops hold pockets of territory there, including the airport.

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