Air strikes continue in last Syrian rebel stronghold of Idlib

VIDEO of strikes on terrorist targets in Idlib released by Russian MoD

It came a day after a summit of the presidents of Turkey, Iran and Russian Federation failed to agree on a ceasefire aimed at preventing a looming military operation.

The White Helmets, a team of first responders, also reported on the four people killed in Abdeen.

More than 60 air raids have taken place in southern Idlib, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Even as the leaders met in Tehran, a war monitor said the Russian and Syrian air forces staged air strikes in and around Idlib in what appeared to be the start of Assad's campaign.

Idlib's fall to the Assad regime would effectively signal the end of a civil war that has already killed almost half a million people, devastated the country, and forced half its population to flee their homes.

State-run Al-Ikhbariya TV said the government was retaliating against overnight shelling from rebel-held areas on a government-held town in Hama province, south of Idlib.

Erdogan, speaking at a summit in Tehran on Friday between Turkey, Iran and Russian Federation, urged the other leaders to support his call for an immediate cease-fire in the northwestern province of Idlib.

Mr Erdogan called for a "truce" at a press conference after the talks.

None of Turkey's options look good, adds Aydıntaşbaş, as it faces both a humanitarian "catastrophe" and a result that could "forever alter the dynamics of the Syrian war - in favor of the regime". Any fight against terrorists requires methods based on time and patience.

People in Idlib are demanding that regime troops back down.

Those Syrian ground troops would be backed by Russian aircraft as well as military logistics and elite forces provided by Syria's other major ally, Iran.

Iran and Russian Federation have backed a military campaign in the area - which is the rebels' last remaining major stronghold - despite Turkey's appeal for a truce. Several thousand Turkish troops manning the observation points will likely find themselves in the crosshairs of the assault and tens of thousands of Syrians would likely flee toward Turkey. "We don't want Idlib to turn into a bloodbath".

Washington has its own plan on how to "effectively" combat terrorism in Syria, the Pentagon has said, adding that the U.S. is not planning to cooperate with Moscow on the issue.

Iran's Rouhani said the battle in Syria would continue until rebels were pushed out of the whole country, especially in Idlib, but he added that any military operations should avoid hurting civilians.

Mr. Erdoğan has long viewed Assad as illegitimate, wrote Ms. Aydıntaşbaş, in an ECFR analysis published Thursday, so "despite a begrudging acceptance of the regime's wartime gains over the past two years, Ankara is in no mood to facilitate Assad's victory in Idlib". And in a sign of the administration's shrinking commitment to Syria, it has pulled more than $200 million in stabilization funding for liberated areas, telling other nations they should step up to pay. The Observatory said the clashes left 10 government security personnel and seven Kurdish fighters dead.

The Syrian government has denied ever using chemical weapons. Occasional clashes erupt there over turf control and authority, reflecting deepening political tension between the uneasy partners. The rescuers said another was killed in Halba, a village further north.

Black said he and Assad spent three hours in the president's office, in a mostly upbeat discussion about how the country has fared since the senator's last visit.

There was no immediate comment on the clashes by the government.

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

Erdogan, meanwhile, may have been the leader with the most to lose ahead of the offensive. They seized the territories, with the backing of the US-led coalition, after driving out ISIS militants.

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