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The New Arab

Syria jihadist leader vows to fight regime offensive on Idlib

The HTS alliance is led by jihadists from al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate [Twitter]

Date of publication: 22 August, 2018

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The leader of the main jihadist group in the last Syrian rebel stronghold of Idlib has vowed to fight against a possible regime offensive.

The leader of the main jihadist group in the last Syrian rebel stronghold of Idlib has vowed to fight against a possible regime offensive, opposition news website Enab Baladi  reported.

Abu Mohammed al-Golani of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) alliance made the comments in a video message released late on Tuesday to mark the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha.

"Mujahideen from all factions have assembled. God permitting, a precise plan has been drawn up to defend the area to repel an offensive by the regime and its supporters," Golani said.

The jihadist leader said state-sponsored surrenders of rebel groups, such as recent evacuations in the country's south, would be not be repeated in Idlib.

He added that Turkish observation posts in Idlib were "unreliable" and would fail to discourage the regime from launching a military campaign on the rebel-held north-western province.

The comments come as the regime has been sending reinforcements into Idlib, which lies along the border with Turkey.

The HTS alliance, which is led by jihadists from al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front, controls more than 60 percent of Idlib.

After seven years of war, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has set his sights on retaking control of the Idlib.

"A full-scale offensive into Idlib could uproot between 700,000 and 2.5 million Syrians currently in the province, many of whom will likely flee over the border into Turkey," said Middle East affairs specialist Paul Iddon.

"Consequently, such an operation could amount to the most destructive Syrian campaign to date, or at least as destructive as the final stages of the infamously brutal battle for the city of Aleppo in late 2016," Iddon added.

Regime forces captured rebel-held suburbs of the capital, Damascus, earlier this year as well as the southern provinces of Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida.

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