Idlib residents protest Syria president Assad in face of looming offensive

Syrian protesters wave their national flag as they demonstrate against the regime and its ally Russia in the rebel-held city of Idlib on September 7. (Omar Haj Kadour/AFP)

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SULAIMANI — Syrian activists say residents in the country’s last opposition-held province, Idlib, are demonstrating against President Bashar Assad on Friday (September 14), in defiance of an expected government offensive to retake the territory.

The activist-run Orient News channel reported protests in the provincial capital, Idlib, and in the town of al-Bab in neighboring Aleppo province, according to the Associated Press.

Wissam Zarqa, a university instructor, says the demonstrations started after congregational prayers on Friday and that demonstrators are flying the green, white, and black flag of Syria’s uprising against Assad.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s military and defense chiefs have visited areas bordering Syria where the country has reinforced troops amid fears of a looming Syrian government offensive on Syria’s last rebel-held province of Idlib.

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and Chief of Military Staff Yasar Guler on Friday inspected troops in the border provinces of Hatay and Gaziantep.

Turkey has been reinforcing the border in recent weeks. Syrian activists meanwhile said new military reinforcements had arrived to beef up Turkish observation points inside Idlib.

The state-run Anadolu Agency reported late Thursday that commando units as well as howitzers, tanks, armored personnel carriers and heavy work machines were sent to the town of Reyhanli, in Hatay province as reinforcements

Turkey’s foreign minister says his country is still working for a peaceful solution for Syria’s rebel-held province of Idlib, adding that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would hold talks with Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Monday.

Turkish media said the two leaders would meet in the Russian city of Sochi.

Speaking during a visit to Pakistan on Friday, Mevlut Cavusoglu said: “We will continue our efforts with Iran and with Russia. ... We will continue our efforts on international platforms as well.” His comments were broadcast live on Turkish television.

At a meeting in Tehran last week, the leaders of Russia and Iran backed military operations in Idlib despite pleas from Erdogan for a cease-fire.

Turkey fears a humanitarian crisis in Idlib, which straddles Turkey’s borders and is home to more than 3 million people.

The government and its backers, Russia and Iran, say Idlib is ruled by terrorists and are threatening to seize it from the opposition by force.