US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday said the United States views the Syrian government military assault on militant-held Idlib as an escalation of the Syrian conflict, as the State Department warned that Washington would respond to any chemical attack by Damascus.
Russian Federation and Syria have denied planning any chemical attacks and have charged that the extremist Hayat group - with backing from the West - is planning to stage one and then blame it on the government, creating a pretext for Western air strikes.
Grandi, who made the comments in Lebanon after visiting Syria and Jordan, said an all-out attack threatens to cause many civilian deaths and fresh displacement, as well as discourage the return of other refugees. The al-Qaeda-affiliated Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group only is estimated to have almost 60,000 militants in the city. Turkey, Russia and fellow regime backer Iran all operate "observation points" in Idlib as part of a "de-escalation" deal agreed previous year that was meant to reduce bloodshed in the province.
Turkey fears a humanitarian crisis on its borders.
The looming assault on Idlib province is the one the government in Damascus hopes will deliver the final military blow against the rebel fighters and their civilian supporters who rose up more than seven years ago demanding regime change.
We have been aware of that since the very beginning.
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"We are working toward stopping this attack", Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in Vienna Friday. The last significant rebel-held stronghold, the northwestern territory is home to some 3 million Syrian civilians, a huge portion of whom sought refuge in the so-called "de-escalation" zone-as designated by a tripartite Russia-Iran-Turkey deal-after being displaced from other parts of the country. HTS is now the most powerful armed faction in Idlib. For those fighters, the battle for Idlib will likely be the last showdown with the government and they are expected to put up a hard fight.
Though the group claims to have no direct ties to al-Qaida, it's considered a terrorist group by the United States and the United Nations. It comes with an appendix noting that the group's former name was the Nusra Front.
"We see different gatherings in a variety of places-in Ankara, in Tehran, in Geneva-talking about redesigning Syria after Idlib", Liberman noted, adding that, "The only thing that concerns us is the security interests of the State of Israel".
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Damascus to discuss plans for an upcoming summit between the leaders of Iran, Russia and Turkey, which Tehran will host on September 7 to discuss Idlib, Iran's Fars news agency reported.
She said violence could force as many as 800,000 people to flee in one of the Syrian war's largest displacements yet.
While he quickly backed away from talk of an immediate withdrawal, his underlying determination to leave Syria's seven-year war as soon as possible seems unchanged.