Russia confirms strikes on 'terrorist' targets in Syria's Idlib

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When the presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran meet in Tehran on Friday, Sept. 7, all eyes will be on their diplomacy averting a bloodbath in Idlib, Syria's crowded northwestern province and last opposition stronghold.

While President Donald Trump had signaled that he wanted US forces out of Syria, in April he agreed to keep troops there a little longer.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Wednesday that four jets struck targets linked to an al-Qaida-linked group, including a weapons depot and a launch pad for drones that Russia says have targeted its military bases in Syria. It has also created zones of control in northern Syria and has several hundred troops deployed at 12 observation posts in Idlib.

"Such an attack would be a reckless escalation of an already tragic conflict and would risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of people", said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, warning the USA and its allies "will respond swiftly and appropriately". "It is going to be a moment of truth", he said.

Idlib and surrounding areas are the last major enclave held by rebels opposed to Assad.

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He said the USA had repeatedly asked Russian Federation whether it could "operate" in Idlib to eliminate the last holdouts of Isis and other extremist groups. "There are indeed many more babies than there are terrorists in Idlib".

The three nations a year ago declared Idlib to be a "de-escalation zone", and Turkey says the cease-fire inside Idlib must not be violated.

Trump campaigned on a pledge to keep the US out of foreign wars and as president he made a number of statements saying it was time for American troops to "get out" of Syria. "We know that the Syrian armed forces are getting ready to solve this problem", Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, calling Idlib a "pocket of terrorism". Only this time, there is nowhere left to go, and remaining fighters are more likely to fight until the end. Moscow, however, has called Idlib a "nest of terrorists", the word it uses to refer to the rebels.

Cavusoglu says Russian and Turkish officials have been holding talks on preventing a military strike on Idlib.

The meeting takes place against the backdrop of much saber-rattling.

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The Syrian military has been urging the rebels in Idlib to surrender.

According to sources close to the Kremlin, a task force of ten warships and two submarines was off the coast of Syria last week.

At the core of Idlib's predicament is the thousands of jihadists entrenched in the province along with the civilians.

Jeffrey's comments come as the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, backed by Russian Federation, prepares to retake the last pocket of territory of held by anti-government rebels, amid fears that could cause a bloodbath.

For Turkey, however, the loss of Idlib would represent a humiliating failure that threatens to completely defeat Ankara's interests in Syria.

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Can Acun, foreign policy researcher at the Ankara-based Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research, or SETA, said Turkey will try to push at the summit for any operation in Idlib to be limited, "one that targets only terror and radical groups".

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