Syria war: Idlib rebels targeted by 'fiercest raids in weeks'

US has seen evidence of Syria preparing chemical weapons in Idlib: envoy

"The Trump administration is really at a Hail Mary moment", said Nicholas Heras, a Syria analyst and fellow at the Center for New American Security.

Erdogan warned his counterparts that any assault by Syria's regime will lead to a "bloodbath" in Idlib province, where an assault is expected any day.

Idlib is home to some 3 million people and a regime offensive may trigger a new wave of displacement, driving refugees to Turkey which is already hosting more than 3.5 million Syrians.

That also includes an estimated 10,000 hardcore fighters, including al-Qaeda-linked militants.

The bombings followed the failure to agree a ceasefire when the leaders of Iran, Russia and Turkey met in Tehran on Friday. "And Russia wants to maintain its regional presence to fill the vacuum left by America's long uncertainty about what it wants in the conflict".

"If we can ensure a ceasefire here, this will be one of the most important steps of the summit, it will seriously put civilians at ease", Erdogan said.

The White House has warned that the United States and its allies would respond "swiftly and vigorously" if government forces used chemical weapons in Idlib.

The SOHR said that the strikes were the fiercest in over a month of attacks on rebel-held areas in the north.

There is "lots of evidence" that chemical weapons are being prepared by Syrian government forces in Idlib in northwest Syria, the new USA adviser for Syria said on Thursday, as he warned of the risks of an offensive on the country's last big rebel enclave.

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

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"Idlib is about a lot of worldwide power play and everyone is looking after their interests", al-Mustafa said.

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.

The US military strategists have found what they call a "better, more focused way" to do counterterrorism operations in Idlib, the US Department of Defense said in statement on Saturday.

"The new policy is we're no longer pulling out by the end of the year", James Jeffrey, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's representative for Syria engagement, told the Washington Post on Thursday. Eight aid agencies warned Friday that in the coming offensive "it will be the most vulnerable who will pay the heaviest price, with women, children, and the elderly in Idlib unlikely to be able to move to safety".

US President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the Iran nuclear deal in May, and re-imposed the first batch of anti-Iran sanctions later in August.

"The U.S. has been very clear" in its warnings against Syria, Haley said.

Trump shifted his public tone on Syria within a matter of weeks, as the US and its allies launched missile strikes against Syria in April over a chemical attack against civilians in the city of Duoma.

A journalist and resident of the area, Arin Sheikmos, said the government security troops went on an arrest campaign in Kurdish-controlled areas, detaining people it accuses of skipping compulsory military service.

Turkey understands the concerns of Iran and Russian Federation over the presence of the terrorist groups in Idlib, he said, adding that "we also expect our friends to consider our concerns as well".

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