Humanitarian corridors ready for civilians to evacuate Syria's Idlib ahead of anticipated attack

Source: Xinhua| 2018-09-04 20:28:11|Editor: xuxin
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DAMASCUS, Sept. 4 (Xinhua) -- Safe humanitarian corridors have been set up for civilians to leave the northwestern province of Idlib, the last major rebel stronghold in Syria, ahead of an anticipated Syrian military offensive on the province, the pro-government Al-Watan newspaper reported Tuesday.

The corridors linking Idlib with areas in Aleppo were established after "long and arduous" negotiations between Russia and Turkey, Al-Watan said.

The civilians who want to get reconciled with the government can take the corridor leading to the government-controlled city of Tal Rifat in northern Aleppo, while others who reject the deal with the government can take another corridor to areas under the control of Turkey-backed rebels, the newspaper explained.

The Russians have underlined the need to end the presence of the ultra-radical rebels in Idlib, mainly the Levant Liberation Committee (LLC), otherwise known as the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front.

The presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey will hold a summit on Friday in Iran's capital Tehran to discuss the situation in Syria, mainly in Idlib.

Russia and Iran represent the Syrian government, while Turkey has been a supportive side of the rebels in Idlib.

Activists said Ankara branded the LLC as a terror group after trying in vain to persuade it to dissolve itself to avert a wide-scale offensive in the area.

The Syrian government has stressed that it prefers the reconciliation in Idlib.

Analysts believe a limited operation will be carried out on positions of the al-Qaida-linked groups in Idlib, in parallel with reconciliation with other rebel groups.

Idlib has emerged as the major destination and stronghold for the rebels fleeing other parts of Syria through deals or after surrender.

In recent months, the Syrian army captured several towns in the southern countryside of Idlib with hundreds of people starting to return to those areas.

Idlib is now in a state of severe lawlessness characterized by assassinations, explosions and infighting.

The major rebel group in Idlib is the LLC, which has vowed not to surrender and will fight against any anticipated Syrian attack.

For the Syrian army, securing Idlib could almost seal a definite victory against seven-year-long insurgency targeting the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Idlib is of strategic significance as it shares a border area with Turkey to the north, and neighbors the coastal province of Latakia, hometown of Bashar al-Assad.

Notably, the namesake capital city of Idlib lies close to the international road linking the capital Damascus with the northern province of Aleppo.

Idlib is home to around 2.5 million people, including those evacuated after the surrender of rebels in other Syrian areas.

There are no precise figure on fighters among the 2.5 million, but some estimates say the number ranges between 40 and 50,000.

In fact, not all rebels in Idlib are ready to fight as many of them hope to get reconciled with the government, despite rejection from the Nusra Front and its allies.