Russian airstrikes target rebel-held areas west of Syria's Idlib: monitor group


Children were among at least nine civilians killed Tuesday in Russian strikes on Syria's Idlib, a monitor said, as expectations mount of a government offensive in the country's last major rebel stronghold.

Iran and Shia group Hezbollah are strong allies of the Bashar al-Assad regime, whose forces have been fighting opposition groups in a deadly civil war since 2011.

Syrian rebel fighters prepare for an upcoming government forces offensive, in the countryside of the rebel-held northern Idlib province on September 3, 2018.

Khamis, for his part, expressed his gratitude to the Islamic Republic for supporting his country and said with the cooperation of friendly countries, particularly Iran and Russia, Syria will take steps toward the reconstruction.

Speaking in the wake of a message on Twitter from the United States president, Vladimir Putin's spokesman said the army was preparing to solve the issue in what he called a "pocket of terrorism".

Government forces are amassing at the border with Idlib province, while Russian Federation revealed last week it had positioned more than a dozen ships off the Syrian coast, raising fears of a wide-scale offensive that could mark the last major battle in the seven-year civil war. "Don't let that happen!" he added.

Israel considers Iran's military presence in Syria a red line and has struck numerous military sites and advanced weaponry in Syria in recent years.

The province is one of the last areas in Syria held by forces opposed to President Bashar al Assad.

The Iranian diplomatic chief was welcomed by Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad at the airport upon his arrival at Damascus airport.

The Syrian government "has the right to fight against terrorists and purge them entirely from its territory", he said.

The UN's Syria peace envoy called Tuesday on the Russian and Turkish presidents to urgently speak to each other to help avert a "bloodbath" in rebel-held Idlib, as a military offensive appears imminent.

Russian warplanes have been hitting targets at many civilian residential areas and the frontlines of the opposition in Syria's northwestern Idlib province.

Idlib has been a haven for rebels and their families evacuated out of areas won back by the government, but there is no obvious place for them to move to within Syria if they abandon the province now. Representatives from Turkey, Russia and Iran will meet with Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations special envoy on Syria, early next week.

"Idlib is different from other regions because of the large numbers of fighters", Haidar said.



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